Acts 16:6-10 -
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 7After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. 8And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. 9And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 10And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.What are you doing here? Why are you here? Now there's a question you don't hear from the pulpit very often.
Now, let me clarify that. I'm not asking, "What are you doing in this building tonight?" I don't have to ask that, because I already know the answer: you're here because God wanted you here.
And I don't mean a deep, mystical "What is the meaning of our existence?" kind of "what are we doing here," because I know the answer to that one, too. We're here to glorify and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
What I'm asking is, With all the places on this planet that a Christian could live and serve, what is it about this place that causes you to be here? With all the many things that could occupy your time, why are you doing the things you're doing?
Specifically, what does God want you to do, where does He want you to do it, and, are you doing it?
We read in that Scripture that God had specific things for Paul and his companions to do, and specific places for them to do it. We also read that, by prayer and by the Lord's guidance, they could know what He wanted them to do, and where. It's no different for us. We each need to find out what God wants us to do and where He wants us to go.
Am I suggesting there's anything wrong with here? Absolutely not; it's a nice place. There are plenty of unbelievers nearby who need to hear the Gospel, and I'm sure there are a lot of saints here who need fellowship and encouragement. But there are places in this world where there is little or no Christian witness, because there are few or no Christians.
I know what some of you are thinking: "Yep, there he goes - he's a missionary, so he's telling us all we ought to consider missions work." Wellll... yes and no. This is a missions message, but it isn't just a missions message. This message applies to anything that God wants you to do, whether it's
First, there are two different answers that go together, because they wind up meaning the same thing. There's the ever-popular
"I don't know and I don't care"and the closely-related answer,
"I've prayed, I know what God wants me to do, and I'm not gonna do it!"If one of those two answers describes you, I have two words for you. Look. Out.
This is not a threat. This is a friendly warning from someone who hates to see Christians learning the hard way. If you belong to Christ, then you know that Jesus paid a very high price for your soul, and if you think the Holy Spirit of God is going to let you stay on vacation forever, think again.
Please, make it easy on yourself. Seek the Lord and obey Him. Don't make Him come looking for you.
Who's our role model for someone who won't obey the Lord? Jonah. Remember what happened to him? Caught in a storm at sea, thrown overboard, swallowed by a great fish... and he was one of the lucky ones! There's a word for most people in the Bible who refuse God's commands: victims.
Do you want to follow in those footsteps? Of course you don't. But God has given us a great and precious promise in Hebrews 12:6 -
"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."We don't like that promise so well, but He said it, and He will do it if we make Him. The choice is yours, but I implore you: don't make Him teach you the hard way. It's not fun.
The second common answer to the question, "What are you doing here" is what I call,
"Willing and waiting."When was the last time you went forward at an altar call and gave yourself completely to the Lord? When was the last time you prayed, "God, I'll do whatever You want me to do?" That is the kind of prayer God is waiting to hear.
The problem comes when you dedicate your life to the Lord, and then a few months later or a year later, you dedicate your life to the Lord. And then another year comes and goes, and you're still dedicating your life to the Lord, and you mean every word of it, but you haven't done anything!
Jesus told us a parable, in Matthew 21:28-31, of a man who sent his two sons to work in his vineyard. The first one said, "I will not," but later he went. The other said, "I will," but he didn't go. If you're forever saying, "Lord, I'm willing," but you never do anything about it, you're just like that second son.
You might protest, "But God hasn't guided me!" God promised He would direct our paths if we acknowledge Him in all our ways (Proverbs 3:6). But "path" implies that you're going from one place to another. How can He direct your path if you aren't going anywhere?
So, how do we break this deadlock? Simple. If you don't know what to do, just try doing something! Teach the children, get involved with the teens, disciple a new believer, invite a church family over for fellowship. There's enough work to go around.
Pastor, would it break your heart if a dozen people came up to you after this service and said, "Pastor, put me to work?" Would the effort of finding work for those people be a burden you just can't bear? I didn't think so.
I've found, in my own life and in the testimonies of other saints, that God sends His special callings to those who are about their Lord's business. He's looking for workers, not just willing-ers. So if you're willing to do anything for God, try doing something for God, and see what happens. If it bears fruit, great! If it doesn't work out, cross it off your list and try something else.
Once you're moving, then He will guide your path. Remember, Christ's blessing is not, "Well done, good and willing servant." It's, "Well done, good and faithful servant." "Faithful" means he did what His master expected Him to do. So put some feet to that willingness. Do something!
Then, there's the third answer, the one I call...
"Right thing, wrong calling"You'd be surprised how many people are convinced that, if they're doing something good for God, that means they're doing what God wants.
Our example was Paul and his companions in Acts 16. They were out to preach the Gospel (a good thing to do, wouldn't you agree?), and they thought Asia or Bithynia would be good places to do it. "But the Spirit suffered them not."
Did the Holy Spirit put up a force field, so when Paul tried to walk through, ZAP! I don't think so. I think the Holy Spirit made it clear to Paul, when he was praying, that Asia and Bithynia were not the place God wanted him. Preaching the Gospel there was no sin in and of itself, but it would have been for Paul, because he had orders from God not to go there. So Paul didn't go, and he soon learned where he should go.
Now I'll give you some examples that hit a little closer to home.
Working at a good job, so you can give a lot of money to the church for missions: is that a good thing to do? (Usually, when a missioanry asks that question, we all say "amen." Let's try that again: Is that a good thing to do?) Sure, it is. But if God has called you to be a missionary, then working at a good job, so you can give a lot of money to the church for missions, is not a good thing for you to do.
Praying that God would raise up workers and servants in His church: is that a good thing to do? But if God tells you to step forward and be one of those servants, and you just keep on praying, there is something wrong.
The Bible says that to obey is better than sacrifice. It also says that disobedience - rebellion - is as the sin of witchcraft.
There are no crowns in Heaven for those who did second-best. If God puts a call on your life, then anything else you do instead of that, no matter how good it is, is wrong.
How do I know that? James 4:17 - "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." Think about that! It would have been a sin for Paul to preach the Gospel if he did it in the wrong place!
You see, God has a plan for all His creation. And His plan is perfect. Our role in that plan is to do what He tells us to do. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Unless, of course, you think you can improve on perfection. Does anyone here think they can do better than God's plan?
So if you know what you're supposed to be doing for God, and you aren't doing it, then it doesn't matter what else you're doing. You're in sin. That's strong talk. But I didn't say it; God did.
Then there's answer number 4. We get this answer from those sad people who, if you asked them why they're here, would answer,
"Testing, 1, 2, 3..."These are the people who once sensed that God was calling them to some special service, either here or elsewhere;
You were baffled! So you prayed about it some more, and the conviction didn't come back, and you tried to figure out what happened. The only thought that made sense was that the Lord was testing you, just to see if you were willing.
Yeah! That's right! It was a test, and you must have passed. So you went back to what you were doing before, and waited for the "real" call of God. If there's anyone here tonight who fits that description, please consider this:
If the smoke alarms in this church went off, and you stood up and saw that the back of the building was in flames, would you sit down again and say, "Just a fire drill?" Of course you wouldn't. No one suspects a fire drill when they know there's a real fire!
Brothers and sisters, there is a real fire, and the souls of men and women are falling into that fire every day, because they haven't believed on Jesus. And one of the reasons so few have believed is because there are so few who are willing to tell them, both in Africa and right here.
If God had millions of people anxious to serve Him; if He had more workers than He had work; then maybe He'd test a few for their willingness. But, in the whole Bible, I see only one instance of that: when He called Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. Stay with me here, I'm going to get very profound. Every other time that I can think of, when God called someone to do something, it was because He wanted them to do something. Did I lose any of you? This is not rocket science.
But I believe He often does test His servants when He calls them. The test is this: will they remain true to His call even after the feelings go away? Or will they go back to their old life as soon as the sense of urgency passes? And it will pass; our emotions never last too long. That's why we live by His Word instead of by experiences and feelings. It's called "walk by faith, and not by sight" - II Corinthians 5:7.
I went through a dry time that lasted for months, right after I sensed God's call on my life; I had no sense of any calling or anything special at all. But I figured, God doesn't change, so it must be me, so I'll pay no attention to me and just do what He told me to.
So if God once called you to His service, it's more than likely He didn't change His mind. And if you were certain once, what changed? God doesn't change. James 1:17 -
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."So maybe you should consider following through on what you used to be certain about, and not go by your feelings. God says "do it," you do it.
Then there's answer number 5, and this is the one that really gets my goat:
"Lord, I can't."There are those who have never seriously considered missions work, or any other kind of servanthood, because they don't think they have what it takes. God calls them, and their response is, "Lord, I can't."
"Lord, I can't." There are three things wrong with that statement: the word "Lord," the word "I," and the word "can't." Let's shine the light of Scripture on each of those.
First, the word "Lord." It's a word we use so often, sometimes we forget what it means. Jesus knew what the word "Lord" meant, and He asked us a loaded question in Luke 6:46 -
"And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"Oooh! Good question. What does the word "lord" mean, anyway? Webster says this:
"LORD: One having power and authority over others; a ruler by hereditary right or preeminence to whom service and obedience are due."
You've got to get this; let me repeat that. [Repeat] It is not an option. It is due. If your car payment comes due, do you decide whether you're going to pay it or not? Of course not - it's due, so you pay it. It's the same in the spiritual realm. Our Lord says do it, we do it. Why? Because He told us to do it, and He's our Lord, so we do it. That's not so hard to figure out, is it?
Tell me: are there any Marines or former Marines out there? When you're in Marine boot camp, and the drill sergeant walks up to you and says, "Jump," how are you supposed to respond? You're supposed to say, "How high, sir?" on the way up.
Suppose you said, "Oh, sir, I'd love to jump, sir, but I'm afraid I'm just not a very good jumper, sir." How far would that get you? And that's just a man to whom service and obedience are due.
If the Lord says, "Go," our answer should be, "Lord, where to?" If He says, "Give," we should say, "Lord, how much?" If He says, "Preach," our answer should be like Isaiah in chapter 6: "Lord, how long?" The idea of not doing what he was told, never crossed Isaiah's mind. He knew what the word "Lord" meant.
Then there's that little word in the middle. I. Me, myself, "lookin' out for Number One." That expression tells you a lot, doesn't it? Who is your Number One? Who are you looking out for? Who are you focusing on?
Where are our eyes supposed to be? On ourselves? "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). We're supposed to be focusing on God, amen? So what's all this "I, I, me, me" stuff? But "I" can't. But "I'd" be too embarrassed. But "I" don't have what it takes. "I, I, I!" That's no way for a Christian to talk! It's got no place in the church!
So take that "I" stuff and just get it out of your vocabulary! Bury it, burn it, do what you like, but get your eyes off yourself!
Remember Peter? Peter could walk on water as long as he looked at Jesus. As soon as he took his eyes off the Lord, he sank like a rock. And we'll sink like rocks, too, if we take our eyes off Him. But God doesn't want us to sink. So get your focus off yourself; get your eyes up where they belong. On Him.
Finally, there's the word "can't." This one, at least, is a true statement. Do you know what God says, in essence, when He tells you to do something and you tell him, "I can't?" He says, "Of course you can't. What's your point?"
If we can do something all by ourselves, where's the glory for God in that? He asks us to do things we can't do all by ourselves, things that often go against our natures, so that we and everybody else will have to say, "To God be the glory, great things He hath done."
Let me prove this from Scripture. Turn to Isaiah chapter 6, a very familiar passage, one that every missionary loves. You probably know the story: Isaiah sees his vision of the glory of God, he realizes that he is an unworthy sinner, the angel purges his sin with the coal from the altar. Then we get to verse 8:
"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who has a Bible degree so he can go for us?"I'm getting some funny looks. Isn't that what it says? Oh, sorry - I must have been reading from one of those modern paraphrases. Here we are:
"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who is a natural people person so he can go for us?"No? Whom shall I send, and who is old enough? Who is young enough? Who has the right-sized family? Who's smart enough? Who's talented enough? Who's educated enough? Who's confident enough? Read that passage out loud with me, please:
"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?"What's that key word there? "Will." Not "can." "Will." God is not all that concerned about what you CAN do. You have only one ability that He is concerned with: your avail-ability. When the Almighty tells you to do something, it's not because He thinks you can do it. It's because He thinks you're willing to let Him do it through you.
But suppose you're thinking of telling Him you can't. What kind of an answer should you expect? I'll flip this imaginary coin and tell you.
If it comes up heads, your answer is Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ which stengtheneth me."
If it comes up tails, your answer is John 15:5 - "Without me ye can do nothing."
Heads, He wins. Tails, you lose. That's it. That's all there is. Don't expect any other answer.
If He is Lord, He expects your obedience. If your eyes are on Him, you won't be worrying about "I, I, I." And if you're relying on the power of God, your own limits won't even enter the picture.
Finally, to the question, "What are you doing here," there's answer number 6. This is the answer I hope most of you can give, and this answer is:
"I know this is where God wants me."If you've prayed and sought the Lord, and you're certain that He wants you here; if you're serving in your church, sharing your time, talents and treasure with God and His people; if being anyplace else would be less than God's best for you; in that case, you're smack in the middle of God's will for your life, and you're doing exactly what He wants you to do. Can anyone tell you to do more than that? I won't. If that's you, great. Are you off the hook? No.
You may have a friend or a family member who'd give one of those other answers, and you might be able to pass on something I've said, to make an eternal difference in that person's life.
What are you doing here? Why are you here? Have you sought God, gotten your marching orders, and now you're carrying them out? If not, tonight would be a really good night to make changes.