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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

      Death-Means-New-Life-042119

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

      How-To-Get-Promoted-041419

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

      HERE
.

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.

How to Build Wealth

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘How to Build Wealth’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 2/24/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE
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How to Build Wealth

Successful investing is simpler thank you think. What do I know about investing? Sure, I am a pastor now; but prior to taking a job at the church I was a Risk Arbitrage trader at a major bank on Wall Street. Prior to that, I graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Applied Economics and Management. I hate to pull a Paul in Philippians 3 (see vv 4-6), but I have the background to preach this message.

The key to successful investing is making your money work for you. Compound interest! They key is investing funds in a vehicle that is going to produce consistent and reliable returns. Note there is a difference between trading and investing. We are not here this morning to talk about buying and selling something to make money fast. We are here to talk about wisely investing money to build wealth slowly.

Warren Buffett – the founder of famed investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, and at this time the 3rd richest man in the world – has said the single most powerful factor behind his investing success is compound interest:

“My wealth has come from a combination of living in America, some lucky genes, and compound interest.” – Warren Buffett[1]

In a 1964 letter to his investors, he bragged about the power of compound interest to his investors. His wife had recently taken an interest in investing in art, and Mr. Buffet was not a fan. Here were his comments:

“Francis I of France paid 4,000 ecus (European Currency Units) in 1540 for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. On the off chance that a few of you have not kept track of the fluctuations of the ecu 4,000 converted out to about $20,000. If Francis had kept his feet on the ground and he (and his trustees) had been able to find a 6% after-tax investment, the estate now would be worth something over $1,000,000,000,000,000. That’s $1 quadrillion or over 3,000 times the present national debt, all from 6%. I trust this will end all discussion in our household about any purchase or paintings qualifying as an investment.” [2]

The current value of the Mona Lisa is around $820 million dollars. But wouldn’t you rather have one quadrillion dollars? Such is the power of compound interest.

Have you ever been to Manhattan? Several years later, Mr. Buffett reminded his investors that Peter Minuit purchased the island from the Manhattan Native American tribe for $24 in 1626. The current value of all real estate on the island is somewhere between $1.1 and $1.74 trillion dollars, depending on the estimate. Seems like a raw deal for the original owners, doesn’t it?

But if the Manhattan Native American tribe had invested that $24 at a 7% annualized interest rate over the next 393 years, they would currently have $8.4 trillion dollars: or seven times the value of all the real estate in Manhattan. Such is the power of compound interest! You might ask, where can I find an investment that will return 7%? To which I would reply, the average annualized return for the S&P 500 over the last 90 years was 9.8%.

Investing isn’t as hard as people make it out to be. It’s crafted as complicated because finance professionals need something to charge you for (trust me, I was one)! But real wealth is built with simple, Biblical principles like these:

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. – Prov 13:11

The earlier you start investing, the better. Stay away from schemes that promise overnight success. Instead, gravitate to time-tested principles.

Dave Ramsey is a leading expert on personal finances. Lucky for us, he’s also a Christian. More than one million families have taken his Financial Peace University course;[3] and the average family that completes the course is completely out of debt in 18-24 months. The financial principles of the course are simple: pay off your debt, and start saving. Once you have an emergency fund built up, start investing. This is compound interest! Don’t pay interest to someone else (debt); earn interest from someone else (investment)!

As a practical example, imagine the following three cases.[4] Michael, Jennifer, and Sam all save $1,000 a month for 10 years ($120,000 total). Michael starts saving at age 25, and stops on his 35th birthday. From that day forward, he allows his money to compound interest in an investment account at 7% annualized until he retires at age 65. Jennifer starts a little later than Michael, saving $120,000 over 10 years from age 35 to 45. Sam took a little longer to get bitten by the investment bug; so he saved $120,000 over ten years from age 45 to 55. All three saved the same amount. All three let their money accumulate at the same rate (7%) until the same age (65). Yet when they retired, they had vastly different sums:

  • Michael: $1,444,969
  • Jennifer: $734,549
  • Sam: $373,407

Do you see the power of compound interest?

Sowing Seed

Now what would have happened if Michael, Jennifer and Sam hadn’t invested anything? It’s not a trick question. They wouldn’t have had anything left for retirement! The reality is, if you want to reap a harvest, you have to sow seed. If you want to have a return, you have to invest!

Jesus explained the principle of sowing and reaping to His disciples as follows:

And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” – Mk 4:26-29

Money – just like seed – has inherent growth properties. You don’t have to work for money; money will work for you. But if you want to benefit from the inherent growth properties of money, you have to invest it! What farmer would expect a harvest without first putting seed in the ground?! Yet how often do you and I expect to have a solid financial future without making the investment required? Instead of responsibly investing, we come to God with a lottery mindset – expecting Him to drop money into our laps out of the sky – instead of following the simple principles He outlined for us in His word!

The Apostle Paul explained principle of sowing and reaping to the Church at Corinth:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. – 2 Cor 9:6-8

If you sow a lot of seed, you are going to reap a big harvest! But if you refuse to sow a lot of seed…well, you know…

Too often, we take the seed God has given us and we do something else besides sowing. Some of us keep our seed in our pocket. We convince ourselves we aren’t smart enough to invest our money, so we keep our cash under the mattress. But the seed won’t grow out of the soil! Some of us eat what God wants us to sow. We live lives of frequent spending on things like going out to eat, instead of keeping the money God has given us. Still others of us scatter our seed somewhere it won’t take root: we spend our funds on depreciating assets like fancy cars and then have nothing left to invest (but at least we impress our friends)!

If you don’t sow – or sow in the wrong place – the results will be predictably disastrous; but if you sow it in the right place, the results will be incredible!

Investing for Eternity

Now here’s what I really want to talk about. You’re probably reading this article because of the title. You want to know how to get rich. Maybe you’ve read some books on investing and devoted some time to figuring out how to exercise healthy, Biblical financial principles.

Now here is my thought for you: if were willing to spend so much time & energy learning how to invest for your time-limited future on earth, how much more time & energy should you spend learning to invest in your eternal future in Heaven?!

Jesus reminds us, His disciples, that we should spend our lives building wealth in the right ways:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matt 6:19-21

It is a waste to spend our lives accumulating things we can’t take with us when we die. But wait a second, Pastor Mike. Didn’t you just talk about building earthly wealth for three pages? And now your conclusion is, Build up heavenly wealth instead? Yup!

You see, I believe God wants you to build wealth in multiple ways: 1) financial wealth here on earth, and 2) spiritual wealth in Heaven. The reason He is willing to help you build financial wealth is because He wants you to bless other people with it!

The currency for the things of Heaven is faith. Every single thing you’ve ever gotten from God has come by faith. But the currency of Earth is…you guessed it…money. If you want to be a blessing to other people during your time on earth – to relieve poverty, feed the hungry, and house the homeless – you need earthly wealth! And if you want to be blessed during your time in Heaven, you need spiritual wealth!

Will investing for eternity be a sacrifice? Will it mean you might have to pass up some things in the short term, to invest wisely for the long term? Absolutely. But here is Jesus’ promise when we give up anything for Him:

Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” – Matt 19:27-29

Investing for eternity might seem like giving up something now; but Jesus’ promise is, in return, you will gain so much more. You shall receive “a hundredfold” in this life, and inherit eternal life after that (v 29)!

You saw the impact compound interest can have on your financial future over 30 years in our example earlier. How much more impact can your investment in the Kingdom of God earn over the same period of time? Over the next 300 years? Over the next 3,000 years?!

Giving to the Church

I believe the best way to invest in the Kingdom of God is to give to the local church. But don’t just take my word for it. Look at God’s promise to those who sow into His “storehouse:”

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” says the Lord of hosts; “And all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts. – Mal 3:10-12

When you tithe into the local church, God will open the windows of heaven for you. He will pour out a blessing that is so immense that you won’t even have room to receive it! He will protect you by rebuking the devourer for your sake. Aren’t you glad God will not only build wealth in your life, but also protect what He’s given you?

But it all starts when you make the choice to sow seed. It doesn’t matter to me if you tithe to our church, or to another church; but every Christian’s responsibility is to sow into something. Pick a church, and give! And watch God give it back to you with interest.

© 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://compoundingmyinterests.com/favorite-quotes/

[2] https://www.safalniveshak.com/wit-wisdom-warren-part7/

[3] https://www.daveramsey.com/pr/fpu_passes_1_million_families

[4] https://www.moneyunder30.com/power-of-compound-interest

The Point of Prayer

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘The Point of Prayer’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 2/3/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE

Week Four: Getting to the Point of Prayer

We’ve covered good ground so far. In Week One,[1] we digested our responsibility to share the Gospel with other people. In Week Two,[2] we saw that God will give us a specific group of people with whom He wants us to share the Gospel. In Week Three,[3] we discussed one of the most important principles of evangelism: Talk to People! Now, in Week Four, I want to give you another key to effective evangelism: getting to the Point of Prayer (PoP).

Pray It, Don’t Say It

My wife and I founded the Healing Rooms at CityLight Church in 2012. Twice per month, we open our sanctuary on a Saturday and invite people who need physical healing to come in for prayer. We have teams of volunteers who are trained to pray for physical healing who stand on the word of God, and believe that whomever they pray for will be healed in the name of Jesus.

After we opened, our motto in the Healing Rooms quickly became, “Pray it, don’t say it.” We realized right away that telling someone what the word of God said is mildly effective; but praying the word of God over someone causes genuine breakthrough to take place. Talking about God’s will to heal might result in an occasional healing, but praying God’s will to heal over a broken body quickly causes healing to happen!

Whenever you set out to tell someone about Jesus, the end goal of your interaction should be prayer. Get to a “Point of Prayer,” and invite the power of God into the room. Ask God to move on the person’s heart, and to show him or her how much He loves them.

Our Flawed Model

How do you typically approach evangelism? If you’re like me, you were taught that evangelism is all about telling. You have to tell people about Jesus! You have to tell someone through a well-thought-out conversation (an intellectual “argument” or presentation) why they need Jesus. You want them to realize their need for a Savior, and make a decision invite Jesus into their life.

But here is the problem with that approach: it assumes your primary responsibility is to convince someone to believe in Jesus. I want to show you that the purpose of evangelism is not to convince someone they need Jesus. In fact, contrary to the model we typically employ, the purpose of evangelism is not to convince anyone of anything!

The Apostle Paul is one of the greatest evangelists to ever walk the earth. He wrote 13 out of 27 books in the New Testament, so he certainly knows what he’s talking about. We typically attribute his evangelistic effectiveness to his education and argumentative skills: Acts 22:3 tells us Paul was, “…indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in [Jerusalem] at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of [Jewish law].” Paul was the best student of one of the most respected teachers of Jewish law in all of Israel! He knew Scripture like the back of his hand.[4] Surely his intellectual ability was what made him more effective at sharing the Gospel, right?

Wrong. Notice how Paul describes his evangelism process:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. – 1 Cor 2:1-5

Paul’s goal was not to convince people to believe in Jesus with “excellence of speech” or “wisdom.” As smart as he was, he didn’t rely on an intellectual proof to lead people to Christ! He knew that “persuasive words of human wisdom” wouldn’t get the job done. Instead, he relied on, “…demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Paul was on to something. He knew words would get him only so far. At some point, if he wanted to be effective at introducing people to God, he had to do something more.

Jesus knew the same thing. Yes, He was an anointed Teacher. We see Him teaching in the synagogues everywhere He went. But we also know there was something different about the way He taught:

And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. – Matt 7:28-29

Jesus didn’t teach with words only; He taught with authority. “Authority” is the Greek exousia,[5] which means the power required to establish rule and reign. Jesus knew what we should know: “No one can come to [Jesus] unless the Father who sent [Jesus] draws him” (Jn 6:44). Jesus’ goal was not to convince anyone to believe in Him with words; it was to allow them to experience the presence of God and His authority here on earth.

So here is my question for you: If Paul was one of the best in history at theological debates, yet even he didn’t try to convince people to believe in Jesus, then why do we? If Jesus was the Son of God, yet even He didn’t teach “as the scribes” (i.e. with fancy words and well-thought-out arguments), then why do we? Do we think we’re smarter than Paul? More effective than Jesus? Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to say exactly the right thing, at exactly the right time, and convince people to believe in Jesus?

We’re not that smart. That’s not meant to be insulting; it’s meant to be empowering. Thank God He doesn’t rely on our intellectual abilities to win people to Jesus. Thank God we don’t have to convince people to believe something they don’t want to believe! That takes all the pressure off us, and puts it back on Jesus.

The Point of Prayer

I’m inviting you to change your paradigm for effective evangelism. Your job is not to win anyone with words; it is to pray and watch God move.

Here’s how it works. You start by talking to people (TTP![6]). Ask people about their lives. Meet them where they are! Instead of telling them what you want them to hear; ask them how they want to pray. As they’re telling you about their life, pick a real prayer need, and start to pray. Invite the presence of God’s Holy Spirit into your prayer. Pray it, don’t say it! By the end of your prayer, your goal is to ask God to fundamentally change that person’s life by His miracle-working power. Your goal is to allow that person to experience His presence. Your goal is to have them so changed by prayer that you won’t have to “give them” Jesus; they will be chomping at the bit to receive Him.

Do you see the difference? It’s not about you; and it’s all about Him! God doesn’t need your well-thought-out arguments or your clever introductions. He just needs you to reach a Point of Prayer, so He can make people hungry for Jesus through you!

You might ask, well when do I tell people about Jesus? My response: pray it, don’t say it! If you get to a genuine point of prayer, God is going to show up.

Last Monday, my prayer on the subway during my morning commute to work was, “Lord, give me one person I can share the Gospel with today.” I came off the train excited! Nothing gets your pulse going like being ready to tell people about Jesus!

I squeezed off the train and headed up the stairs from the subway platform to the street. I walked through a tiny park with some picnic tables where people had stopped to suck down a morning coffee. On the other side of the park, a woman who looked to be in her mid-30’s was swaying back and forth, asking for help. “Do you have anything to eat?” she asked. I didn’t have anything to eat; but I knew I had something better.

I walked up to her and dropped my bags and held out my hand. “My name’s Mike.” She took my hand and gave me a limp, dispirited handshake. “What’s your name?” I asked. “Kelly.” “How long have you been living on the street?” I continued. Since she was eighteen. Kelly was 35 now. “So you’ve been living on the street for seventeen years?” I asked? Kelly nodded.

I told Kelly about the Bowery Mission: a great organization that cares for people experiencing homeless in New York City. Kelly replied that, after seventeen years, she knows how to find food and shelter on the streets. She wasn’t interested in housing or clinical care. I knew my role wasn’t to convince her otherwise; it was to empower her by listening to her desires and respecting her decisions as an adult.

Kelly went on to tell me her story. She has a son who is two years old. She couldn’t care for him on the street, so he was taken into foster care. She misses him every day. She longs for the day when she will have her own home and be able to care for him the way she wants. I saw the entry point I had been waiting for: “Kelly, can we pray together?”

I prayed for reconciliation in Kelly’s family. I prayed God would give her a permanent roof over her head so she could raise her son in their own home. I prayed Kelly would be reconciled with her parents and God would bring healing into her family. I prayed God would make His power real to her. I prayed He would make His presence known to her. I prayed everything in the name of Jesus.

Tears started to stream down Kelly’s face as we prayed. Her body was responding to God’s presence. I could feel His presence too! I thanked her for spending a few moments of her day with me. I gave her an evangelism card from our church, with a Gospel message printed on the front, and a directory of NYC homeless resources on the back. I gave her money for breakfast, and invited her to reach out to me any time. If she wanted to hear more about Jesus, I wanted to tell her. She looked into my eyes and said, “God bless you.” That is a look I will never forget.

Could I have had an effective encounter with Kelly if I had stopped and told her about Jesus? Probably! God will use whatever we give Him. But I believe I had an even more effective encounter with Kelly because we were able to pray. She left our conversation not only knowing about God, but also having experienced His presence. I didn’t tell her something I thought she needed to hear; I met her at her point of need and brought her to a Point of Prayer.

Peter and John

Peter and John knew that praying with people was the most effective form of evangelism available:

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. – Acts 3:1-5

Peter and John encountered a man in need. He was in need of money (“asked for alms”). He was in need of healing (“lame from his mother’s womb”). But more than anything, he needed Jesus!

Peter and John didn’t stop and ask Him if he wanted to hear about Jesus. They didn’t try to convince him of his need for a Savior through an intellectual debate! They got him to a Point of Prayer.

Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. Acts 3:6-7

Peter issued a powerful, decisive, commanding prayer. Notice he told the man about Jesus in that prayer. How do I know this? Look at the man’s response:

So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. – Acts 3:8

The man came into the temple to praise God. He knew Who was responsible for this miracle! He wasn’t getting dragged into the temple by Peter and John, not sure if he was going to like church service! He was “walking” and “leaping:” excited to praise the God who had just met his most urgent need!

The effect was contagious:

And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 3:9-10

What if every single one of our church services was filled with people, “…walking, leaping, and praising God?” What if we didn’t have to settle for convincing friends and family members to reluctantly accept an invitation to church? What if their lives were so transformed at a Point of Prayer that they wanted to come and praise God for all He had done?

Your Family

Do you know how you’re going to win your family to Jesus? It won’t be through an intellectual debate. It will be by getting everyone in your family to a Point of Prayer.

For years, I tried to tell my parents about Jesus. My parents have always gone to church; but for years I wondered if they had ever really received Jesus. They go to a church based on Christian tradition, but void of any discussion of what it really means to know God.

My Dad was always the toughest nut to crack. Growing up, my Dad was my biggest mentor. He coached every sports team I was ever on. He taught me how to ski and ride a bike. So it was a bit awkward for both of us when I turned around – forty years his junior – and started asking him if he had a relationship with Jesus. Did he know for sure he was going to heaven? Who was I – just a kid – to question his beliefs? He had a whole lifetime of experience that I didn’t have!

Finally, after years of conversations that felt more like arguments, I just gave up. Instead of trying to convince him of his need for Jesus, I just decided to pray. I would take the next opportunity he gave me, and make it my goal to pray with him. I wanted him to experience the power of God. I wanted him to feel God’s presence!

The next time my wife and I visited home, I was sitting and talking with my Dad. He told me his back was hurting. I jumped up. “Can I pray for your back?” My Dad looked a little startled; but he said yes. I prayed, and I released the power of God over his body. I prayed that Jesus would invade his life like never before. By the end of the prayer, my whole body was tingling. I asked my Dad how he felt: “Better,” he smiled.

Did I lead my Dad into a radical moment where he dropped everything he was doing and said, “What must I do to be saved?” Nope. Did I so wow him with my extensive knowledge of Scripture that he was convinced of his need to know God? I don’t think so! But I did jump at the opportunity to get him to a Point of Prayer.

Several weeks later, my Mom gave me some news. My Dad now reads his Bible every day. Every day! And I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in his life next. God is moving; and it all started with a Point of Prayer.

Get to the Point of Prayer; and watch God do the rest.

© 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://bit.ly/2CTq6ya

[2] http://bit.ly/2ScO15q

[3] http://bit.ly/2Gg7xZk

[4] Pharisees were required to memorize large sections of Jewish Law.

[5] Strong’s G1489; https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/exousia.html

[6] http://bit.ly/2Gg7xZk

Talk to People!

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Talk to People!’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 1/27/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE
.

We know from Week One[1] that we have a responsibility to share the Gospel with other people. We know from Week Two[2] that God will give you a specific group of people He wants you to reach with the message. Now, for Week Three in our Evangelism Series, I want to give you what I believe is the single most important principle for winning people to Jesus. Are you ready?!

T.T.P.

Talk to people. You might laugh out loud at the apparent simplicity. But even though it’s simple, how often do we forget it? If you want to win people to the Lord, you have to start by talking to them first! It’s impossible to tell people about Jesus if you don’t talk to them!

I remember hearing about an Executive Pastor at a large church (20,000+ members) in South Africa. Whenever he hired new staff, he told them there was only one thing they had to do: only one thing that mattered for their job performance. Talk to people. TTP! The health of the church, he said, would depend on it. Whenever the church staff seemed to be forgetting that most important principle, he would threaten to come into the office and write “TTP” in giant letters all over the walls. The staff’s job was not to forget to talk to people; and as evangelists, that is our job too!

Talk to people is an important principle in the business world, too. If you want to be successful, you have to talk to people. Dale Carnegie wrote the first edition of his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, in 1936. Warren Buffet, one of the richest people on the planet, credits that book with fundamentally changing his life.[3] Carnegie took simple principles and explained their importance for everyday interactions, focusing specifically on lessons that would translate to the business world. Here is one of the most memorable quotes from his book:

“Winning friends begins with friendliness.”

It’s deep, isn’t it? But he included it because so many of us forget it so often! Carnegie wrote from a secular perspective: for him, “winning friends” means enlarging your social circle. But we can read it from an evangelistic perspective: winning friends [for Jesus] begins with friendliness.

Do you like talking to people? When you meet someone you’ve never met before, are you friendly? If the answer to one (or both!) of those questions is no, is it any wonder why you aren’t leading more people to Jesus?

If you want to be successful, you have to talk to people! Every job I’ve ever had has been the result of talking to people: I usually knew someone who could get my foot in the door, and then I secured the job by having an interview (i.e. a formal “talk” with people). When I met my beautiful wife Rachael, do you know how our relationship started? By talking to people. I had to open my mouth and say hello; and over time, our trust deepened and our relationship grew because we talked to each other! Do you know how my relationship with Jesus has blossomed? By talking to Him in prayer! Everything I have ever received that is worth celebrating has come about because I talked to people: TTP!

If you don’t like talking to people, you are missing out. David Burkus wrote the book, Friend of a Friend: Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career. He notes that small talk (i.e. “friendliness” or “talking to people”) is more than just polite. He says it is, “…crucial for your success in different spheres of life. And if you hate small talk and do your best to avoid it, you are just cutting yourself off from lots of meaningful social interactions.” [4]

If you want to win friends, you have to talk to people. If you want to win friends to Jesus, you should want to talk to people even more!

Becoming an Everyday Evangelist

Evangelism is not just a one-time special event. Contemporary church culture might suggest that evangelism is something we do once per year, with a bunch of other people, just to invite people to church. But evangelism is not just an event; it is a lifestyle. Are you “doing evangelism;” or are you becoming a supernaturally normal evangelist?

Can I tell you a dirty little secret? I am not a natural evangelist. The summer before we launched our Brooklyn church location, we did servant evangelism (our church’s term for street outreach) almost every single Saturday for two months straight. I remember standing on the corner of Manhattan and Montrose Ave’s in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, handing out granola bars and church invitations. And can I be honest with you? I hated it.

I hated the feeling of putting myself out there and inviting random strangers to church, because many of them said no. I hated watching people laugh and snicker right in my face as I tried to tell them about Jesus. I hated the fact that, because we were in a trendy up-and-coming neighborhood, the most common question I would get was not, “Can you tell me more about Jesus?” It was, “Are the granola bars vegan?” Are you kidding me?!

But several weeks in, I had an epiphany. Why would anyone want to come to a church, if the person who was inviting them was absolutely miserable? If I looked like I was grimacing in pain as I tried to hand someone a granola bar and a church invite, why on earth would they say yes to my invitation: so they could come to church and look just like me?

I realized something that summer. If I was going to be successful at evangelism, I needed to develop a deep, supernatural love for people. I needed to be able to smile and start a conversation with a stranger without looking like I was in physical pain, or letting their response dictate my emotional state. I knew it was time to get good at talking to people.

If we want to get good at reaching people for Jesus, we can’t be afraid of simple conversation. We have to love talking to people!

Conversation-Starters

Tasteful, effective evangelism is not about telling people something they don’t want to hear. It’s not about convincing them Jesus is Lord with a rational, intellectual argument. It’s about meeting them where they are, and inviting the Holy Spirit to move.[5]

Again, I am not naturally good at this. It’s taken years of prayer to get me comfortable talking to people. It’s taken a daily request every morning for God to put me in conversations with at least one person whom I can tell about Jesus.

Do you know what I love about our team at CityLight Church? Our pastors and our staff are all different. We learn from each other in the areas where we’re similar as iron sharpens iron; but we learn even more from each other in the areas in which we’re different.

Pastor Mohamed is our Community Pastor. I count him one of my best friends in the world. And even though I’m not a natural talker, Pastor Mohamed is.

Pastor Mo is a big dude. Years ago, when we took all the men at the church bowling, I was sitting at the back of the bowling alley with Pastor Mo. We were in the middle of a conversation, and someone came up to us and asked him, “Do you know where the bathroom is?” “No,” he answered politely. Five minutes later, someone else approached: “Hey man, what time do you guys close?” Now I realized what was going on, and I started hysterically laughing. Everyone thought Pastor Mo was the bouncer! They assumed he worked at the bowling alley as security, so they were asking him all sorts of questions about hours of operations and where the bathrooms were located!

So now you know just how big Pastor Mo is. But do you know what? Pastor Mo loves talking to people. If you ever ride the New York City subway with Pastor Mo, you will see exactly what I mean. He will lock eyes with random people, just to give them a smile. Why? Because he knows something we should know: a smile can soften someone’s heart. A smile can open the door to a conversation about Jesus. A smile can result in someone giving his or her life to Jesus because of the conversation that follows. Dale Carnegie put it this way: “Actions speak louder than words, and a smile says, ‘I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you.”[6]

One of the reasons I love hanging out with Pastor Mo is he makes me better. I do not lock eyes with people on the subway. In fact, I hate it when people lock eyes with me. Growing up, I hated that one kid in class who would always sit at the front of the room, but periodically turn around to scan the rest of the room and lock eyes with people. I don’t like the people in church who turn around and look at other people during the sermon. I’m just not built that way! But Pastor Mo is making me better.

And now it’s your turn! Are you a natural lover of people? When you meet someone new, are you naturally curious about their life? Could you care more? Or could you care less?

Along with being a pastor, I’m a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. One of the things I love about going to the gym is talking to people. I’ve never walked into the gym with the intention of preaching the Gospel; but I arrive in every day with a mission to talk to people and an invitation for God to move as I start a conversation.

Several months ago, I was talking with a friend on the mat after practice. He told me his older sister had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. I had a meeting scheduled right after practice, but I made a decision: right now, the most important thing I can do is sit here and listen.

He started to tell me how unfair this whole situation was. It didn’t make any sense. His sister was young. She was healthy! She ate well, and exercised often. She was a loving, devoted mother to her two kids. So how could it be, all of a sudden, that she was diagnosed with lymphoma?

I sat and talked with him for 15 minutes. He was blown away that I actually cared what was going on in his life. I told him I would be praying for his sister, but I didn’t stop and pray with him right then and there. I left the conversation beating myself up a little bit. Should I have been bolder? Should I have told him about Jesus? Should I have insisted that we pray – right then and there, on the spot?

Know this: God will use whatever you give Him. I left the conversation wondering if I could have done more. What I didn’t know, however, was this: about a dozen other people were listening to us as we had our conversation on the mat. When I got to the locker room, another guy came up to me. “I heard you talking up there,” he said. “What did you think?” I smiled.

As we talked, this guy started telling me his religious history. He grew up going to church; but at a certain age, he left. Why? Because he didn’t feel like anyone really cared about him. He had attended a big church, and he felt lost in the crowd. Leadership wanted him to get on board with their agenda; yet no one seemed to care if he even had personal hopes and desires. We talked for about fifteen minutes, and he promised to come give our church a try. He told me about a desire to get plugged into a men’s ministry, so we made a bro-date to go find one!

What happened there? I wasn’t trying to shove the Gospel down people’s throats. I simply made a decision to demonstrate compassion by talking to people, and listening to what they had to say. And in our culture, that is so different and abnormal that people took notice.

When you make a decision to love people through conversation, God will do the rest. Even if you feel like you missed it in one conversation, God will still use it all for good! Don’t worry about saying the perfect thing at the perfect time! If you just talk to people, God will use it all for His good!

The Woman at the Well

Do you know who loves talking to people more than anyone else in the whole world? Jesus!

In John 4, Jesus is in the middle of a missionary journey. He’s traveling with His disciples; and do you know what His main goal is? To talk to people! To tell them just how good God is!

So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. – Jn 4:5-6

Jesus is in the middle of a long day. It’s 12 noon, and He is tired. So he sits by a well and takes a rest. And watch what happens:

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. – Jn 4:7-9

Jesus was exhausted! But even the King of Kings was never too tired to talk to people.

What’s also important here is that Jesus was crossing racial and cultural divides by engaging this Samaritan woman in conversation. Look how surprised she is (v 9)! At that time, Jews and Samaritans didn’t talk! They didn’t respect each other, and they didn’t want anything to do with each other! Yet here is Jesus making a decision to overcome the racism and classism at play by having a simple conversation. Remember that Jesus’ primary mission was to save, “…the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24). But He was willing to put that mission on pause to introduce someone to His Father.

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” – Jn 4:10-12

So far, Jesus and this woman were engaged in small talk. Jesus was hinting at something deeper; but this Samaritan woman thought He was talking about a physical well! But all of a sudden, the conversation took a sharp turn. As soon as Jesus had the opportunity to give her the Gospel, He took it:

Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.” – Jn 4:13-15

Wow. Just look at the way Jesus handled that conversation. Our typical Christian approach is to try and tell people what we think they need to hear. We come along with our Christian fire hose and start blasting people in the face with our opinion on everything from abortion to homosexual marriage. The consequence is that, instead of people knowing what Christians stand for, they only know what we stand against.

But Jesus didn’t do that! He didn’t force the woman to choke down something she didn’t want to swallow! He made her thirsty. You see, we (the church) come along with our fire hose; but Jesus reminds us that our job is simply to make people thirsty enough to want a drink. What would our conversations with non-Christians look like if, instead of trying to get them to see our point of view, we met them where they are and just made them thirsty for the things of God?!

Jesus had the invitation He needed. He told her He was the Messiah (v 26). He told her about salvation, and lovingly challenged her to live a life worthy of repentance. And do you know how she responded? She wanted to go and tell everyone about Him! In one conversation, Jesus made this unrepentant, unsaved woman into an evangelist!

And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?” The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Then they went out of the city and came to Him. – Jn 4:27-30

All of a sudden, the entire city wanted to meet Jesus. They knew this woman! They knew her story! And now they also knew that after one prophetic encounter with Jesus, she was completely changed!

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. – Jn 4:39-41

Your job is not to convince people to believe in Jesus with an intellectual argument or a theological debate. Your job is simply to talk to them, and invite the Holy Spirit to make them hunger and thirst for Jesus.

My Friend in the Park

Several months ago, I started going out and telling people about Jesus every week in Tompkins Square Park. Our church is in New York City’s East Village. It’s a neighborhood that has rapidly gentrified over the past two decades. Drug use and homelessness are epidemics. One morning in prayer, God showed me a vision of me, walking around Tompkins Square Park, and handing out invitations to church. He showed me a picture of myself, stopping and talking to people in the park, and asking to hear their stories.

Several weeks ago, I was out in the park. I was walking around, smiling, speaking in tongues, and asking God whom He wanted me to talk to. I turned a corner in the park and saw Joe from about 40 years away. Joe was sprawled out across a bench, drinking a beer and smoking a joint. I wasn’t sure Joe would want to hear what I had to say, but I knew the Holy Spirit was pushing me in his direction. I excitedly walked toward him. We locked eyes, and I swear I saw him roll his eyes at me from 40 yards away. But that didn’t bother me. I was ready to hear Joe’s story.

Joe asked me what I had in my hand. “Invitations to church,” I said. “I’m not interested,” Joe quipped. “That’s fine,” I replied. So I asked Joe how his day had been. How long had he been living in the neighborhood? I told him I was a pastor at a local church, and asked if there was any way I could pray for him. I didn’t try to sell him the church; I just tried to love him like Jesus.

Joe was brutally honest. “I hate the church,” he confessed, “But I kinda like you.” That was the only invitation I needed. I sat down on the bench next to Joe, and we talked for the next 25 minutes. He told me he had grown up in church, but had left because he felt like no one really cared about him (just like my friend from the gym)! Joe had been the victim of emotional abuse in the church, and sexual abuse in his home. All of this came out on a forest green bench in Tompkins Square Park, on one of the coldest days in January.

Eventually I noticed that Joe was losing interest in our conversation. I slowly rose to my feet, and placed an invitation to church on the bench next to him. “If you ever want to come to church,” I said, “We can go grab lunch after.” Joe’s response? “Not going to happen.” I smiled, and went on my way.

I left that conversation beating myself up again. Had I said the right things? Did I try to pray too soon? Should I have left the invitation on the bench for him, or was it too much?

I haven’t seen Joe since; but one week after our conversation, I got a surprise. We were having 21 days of prayer and fasting at our church, meeting every night for prayer at 7pm. The Monday after I met Joe, there was a knock on the door. A man I had never seen walked in. “I saw the light on. Are you having service tonight?” I explained to him that, while we weren’t having service, we would spend about an hour praying together. He smiled: “That’s exactly what I need.”

I asked him how he had heard about our church. He dug into his pocket and showed me a blue card. “I found this invitation on one of the green benches in Tompkins Square Park.”

God will use whatever you give Him. You don’t have to have the words for a perfect conversation. Just talk to people, and God will do the rest.

© 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://bit.ly/2CTq6ya

[2] http://bit.ly/2ScO15q

[3] https://read.bi/2B9F3vW

[4] http://bit.ly/2HGAfUo

[5] For more on this, listen to Week Four (next week) where we talk all about getting to the “Point of Prayer.”

[6] Carnegie, D. (1936). How to Win Friends and Influence People.