Did you ever wonder why God uses some people more than others? I mean, two people, let's say they both have the same IQ, they both know the same amount of the Bible, they both come from the same kind of homes, but why is it that God uses some people a lot more than he uses others?
Why is it, when you talk with some people there's a sense that when they pray, God answers vividly their specific prayers and they have these amazing stories of supernatural things that occurred? And I think over time we think, "Well, they must be in a special category and I'm just a regular Christian."
I want to suggest that every Christian's life is marked by windows of opportunity that demand a radical step of faith in order to follow Christ and fulfill his agenda for their life. We're going to get down to why God in fact uses some people way more than others and you're going to find it's not because they know more. It's not because of the kind of home they came from necessarily.
Listen carefully. Every Christian’s life is marked by windows of opportunity that demand that you take a radical step of faith in order to follow Christ and fulfill his purposes for your life. And what makes that step radical is that it always involves significant risk. There are times where God will bring an opportunity and it may be in your marriage, it may be in your career, it may be with regard to your finances, it may be in regard to a relationship, and He's going to say, "In order to obey me, in order to follow me, in order to do exactly what I want you to do, this is what you need to do in this situation." And everything in you is fearful, "Oh boy, if I do that – God surely you don't want me to do that." And it’s this little window of opportunity and it takes a radical step. And the reason it's radical is because you say to yourself, "You know what? If this doesn't work out, this relationship could fall apart. If I do that, I would be leaving all my family back here and we are going to move to this new place. If I do that, that may ruin my career possibilities in the future. If I do that I won't be able to pay my bills in three months. God, you don't want me to make a radical step with my finances?"
But listen carefully, where there is no risk, there is no faith. Mark that one down. Where there is no risk, there is no faith. And where there is no faith, there is no power. And where there is no faith, there is no joy. And where there is no faith, there's no intimacy with God. And where there is no faith, there aren't those supernatural miracles. And where there is no faith, there is no reward. And get this one down, where there is no faith; there is no pleasing of God. Think of that.
In fact, where there is no faith, what you do get is hollow religious activity, moralistic rules, and dead orthodoxy. And the reason a lot of kids growing up today, or a lot of you went through some very difficult times is that in many, many organizations and in many, many churches they can run nice programs and they can talk about God, but over time it becomes religious activity and the focus is on, "Do this. Don't do that. Do this. Don't do that." Lots of rules. But there's not power. There's not the presence of God. There are not supernatural, vivid miracles occurring. There's not the sense that God is moving. People's lives aren't changing. Because I've got news for you, you can actually pastor a church without faith. And you can run all the programs and you can have people meet. So you have activities and meetings and committees and Bible reading and hollow prayer meetings. But without faith, it's impossible to please God. And without faith, there is no power. And without faith, there is no reward. And without faith, God isn't pleased.
And so we're going to talk about a common denominator of great Christians. Great Christians think great thoughts. Great Christians read great books. Great Christians pray great prayers and dream great dreams. And one thing great Christians do, all through scripture as you go through this book you will find whether it's Moses or David or Esther or Debra or Peter or Paul, God brings windows of opportunity and each one of them took a radical step of faith. And that radical step of faith meant that if God didn't show up Peter was going to fall through the waves. If God didn't show up when Paul returned after persecuting the Church, he was going to die. If God didn't show up, Esther was going to knock on the door and the king instead of holding up the scepter would have said, "Sorry, Esther." Every person's life that is greatly used by God, that experiences God in powerful ways, takes great risks.
Great risks. How in the world do you live out a life of great risks when down deep in your heart you're human? There are some of you who have bungee jumped, or you have jumped out of an airplane. Your portfolio is all the high risk stocks and the idea of bonds just sort of nauseates your stomach. You want to take great risks. But for most people, risks are scary. God's calling on your life, if you want to be a great Christian, always demands you take great risks. I want to prove that from scripture. I want to give you some Old Testament examples and I want to give you some New Testament examples. I want you to see that this isn't something that superstars do. I want you to see this is the normal Christian life.
Let's look at the Old Testament. Old Testament examples of great risk takers: Abram. I call him Abram because he wasn't Abraham until after he believed. What does he do? He leaves his home, his land, and his family. Would that be scary? I mean, when we read in the Bible, "And Abraham went out from –" I'll tell you what; it wasn't easy for him. He had a home. He had a family. He had security. An invisible God with a voice says, "Abraham, I want you to leave this and I want you to go." "Where do you want me to go?" "I'll let you know later." He took a risk. He believed that the invisible promises of God were more real than the visible reality that he lived in. So he left.
Or take Moses. He returns to his home to deliver God's people. Can you imagine the risk that he felt? The last time he was in Egypt he had killed someone and they had a contract out on him, "Reward for Moses. Dead or Alive." Forty years later God says, "Moses, I want you to deliver my people. You had the right idea. You did it in the wrong way. I want you to go back." And he's going, "What? You're kidding." And then when he does go back instead of being greeted with, "Oh, we're so glad you're here." What happens? He took a great risk and early on it didn't look very good.
Or you take David. He fights a giant that others refuse to face. I mean, yes he's young. Yes, he's idealistic. But there were hundreds of other people in the army that looked at that giant about 9 foot tall and they said, "Hmm, yes he's sure insulting God's name and character and I wish someone would do something about it." But not a single person stepped up to the plate and took the risk of his life. You know, I think there were probably a lot of guys that had learned to use a slingshot in Israel. In fact, they were adept at it. But it wasn't his accuracy with the slingshot. It was his heart that said, "You can't talk about my God that way." And so he took a radical step of faith. He put his life on the line and he didn't even do it in someone else's armor. He had to do it the way God made him. He stepped up and a giant fell and the rest is history.
Or finally, Esther. She confronts evil in the highest position of authority. And we read through that and we think, "Oh yeah, that was really great. She was a beautiful woman." You've got to remember the culture. I mean, it was easy to get a new wife back then. I mean, the guy's got a harem of hundreds of women and remember the last queen? She had a bad day and she's gone. And so Esther, she risks her life to save her people.
The point I want to make is all through the Old Testament what you find is that great risk is a part of radical steps of faith. And if for some reason you think, "Well, maybe that was the Old Testament and God's economy has changed." Let's look at New Testament risk takers.
Peter. We read through the gospels and it seems so natural and Jesus is walking on the beach and he says to Peter, "Follow me and I'll make you fishers of men." And Peter drops his nets and follows him and we think, "Oh that's a nice story." We go onto the next verse. Peter's dad is thinking, "Wait a second, Pete. You're going to do what? What do you mean? I've been building this business." And James and John, they dropped their nets. And Peter's wife, (later we learn he's married), she's going, "Hey honey, what's this deal with this itinerate preacher? What do you mean you're going to be gone from home for weeks at a time?" Peter left his security. Peter left his financial base. Peter confronted his fears. Peter confronted the status quo of a religious establishment that said, "Anyone who follows this itinerate rabbi preacher is going to be cast out of the synagogue." You think that's a radical step? You think that's risky? You better believe it is.
Or Paul returns to those he sought to kill to obey God's call on his life. Remember the Damascus road? He comes to Christ. Then he preaches very briefly and then they lower him in a basket. And then remember he goes back and the apostles, I mean, he's been killing them. He was not like a welcome visitor. If it wasn't for Barnabas they would have not even seen him. And then after he goes back and meets the apostles and confronts that, then he returns and God gives him this little time in Arabia where He does apparently some very personal counseling to prepare him for his ministry. And then there's a time of waiting and Paul returns, are you ready, to Tarsus. Guess where Tarsus is? That's where he grew up. He was a Roman citizen. He was wealthy. He was taught by the supreme of the supreme rabbis, Gamal. And for a period of years he lived in the city where everyone's thinking, "Paul, you're a fool. I mean, you've learned under the best rabbi and now you're a follower of this sect?" You see, sometimes risk means leaving. Sometimes risk means returning.
The third example is Jairus. He fights the religious status quo and lays his reputation and career on the line to seek help for his daughter. I mean, you would be cast out of the synagogue. This isn't just a Jew. Here's a leader of the synagogue. And he takes his career – he's going to ask help of this man named Jesus. The religious leaders have already said, "Anybody who messes around with this guy named Jesus, you're out of here." But he's desperate and he's heard His words and he believes His promises and he's seen His power and he takes all of his life and he puts it literally on the line. You know those poker things that they have on TV now? It used to be ESPN, now it's the Travel Channel. I mean, you can watch poker on four stations and they're all playing this Texas Hold'Em. What's the big moment? What do they do? "I'm all in." You know what a radical step of faith is? It's saying to God, "I'm all in. I’m all in with me and my family. I'm all in with me and my finances. I’m all in with me and my future. I’m all in with my reputation. Lord, I’m all in." And what do you know? When they push those chips to the middle of the table, they start dealing the cards and there's great risk and there's great reward. And what you find is that Jairus said he's all in.
And then you have the woman with the issue of blood. And if we had time to study it, when she reaches out and touches his garment she violates so many cultural norms. A woman reaching out, touching a man was not good in that very private culture. And then remember what it was? She was trembling with fear. And then Jesus begins to question what's going on. Even in our day, but can you imagine in that day? And she's going to explain, "Well, I sort of had a female issue and I've experienced the healing." There's such humility. There's such a radical step of faith. But I think behind it is her sense that, what? She had expended all of her money, she had tried everything else, she's desperate.
Radical steps of faith often aren't taken because you come to some noble Godly moment in your life where you want to be God's man or God's woman. God often brings these windows of opportunity at times where you are desperate and you don't know anywhere or anyway to go. And what you think is for bad, God means for good. And he causes you to say, "You know what? I want you to take a new job. I want you to deal with this marriage issue. I want you to go to counseling. I want you – yes, I really do, I want you to take this amount of money that has become your security and I want you to give it away. I want you to stop what you're doing and I want you to get your family around the table and talk about the real issues. I want you to own your stuff and face that addiction." And I mean to tell you, it is people who take a radical step of faith that God greatly uses. And the reason most of us aren’t used by God is that radical steps of faith are risky, very, very risky.
There are a couple of observations I'd like to make. Number one, is pretty obvious. Faith involves risk. Right? And number two, risk looks very different in different people's lives. If you think of risk or faith, we always think it's stepping out. But from those examples sometimes risk means you leave. And for some of you God may say, "You know what? That's an unhealthy relationship. Or that's not the right place for you and you need to leave." But for others risk is what? It means you return. It means you face the broken relationship with a mom or a dad or an ex mate or with one of your kids. And for others it means you fight. Like David, you step up and fight. And for others it's confront. And you either confront someone else or like the woman, you confront your own issues at a very deep level. And so we've got to be careful of thinking that faith is always something out there. Radical steps of faith, what they have in common are God's clearly defined will and they always involve risk.
The other observation is that all great risk takers have three things in common. And this is very encouraging. I wish you could see your face right now. This is good. I mean, God is speaking. You know, when I look at faces and the brows are going, "Oh man, should I leave? Should I go? Boy, you are messing with my mind today. I just wanted to hear God's Word and my mind –" That's God. Don't fight it. Here's the thing that risk takers have in common: number one is fear. Does that help you? Those emotions that you're feeling and thinking, risk takers all have, they fear what might happen. People who take great risks – Esther, she wasn't at the door going, "Okay. Come on, come on, come on. I've got to go talk to the king. Got to get this done because I get my hair done at 2:30." She was scared to death. Peter didn't drop his nets and go, "Oh, this isn't a big deal." Barnabas didn't go back to his hometown. That woman, it says she was trembling with fear. Fear and faith are not antithetical. I will tell you, at least my personal experience, the greatest steps of faith I've ever taken I was scared to death.
The greatest thing that's said, the most common thing said in the Old and New Testament, get out your concordance. Or now you can do it on computer. Find the little phrase, "Fear not" or "Be not afraid." And what you'll see is, God says to his people through angels or directly moreover than any other thing, "Fear not. Fear not. Fear not." Why? Because we're afraid. It's okay to be afraid. It's not okay to allow your fear to paralyze you from taking the step of faith.
The second thing that risk takers have is not only are they afraid, they have faith to step out in spite of their fear. They do it. They're afraid but they do it. The last part is very encouraging. They not only have fear and faith but they have favor, God's reward and God's blessing on their life.
You know we often quote the first half of Hebrews 11:6, "Without faith it's impossible to please God." Right? That's true. And then it explains a little bit about what faith is as that verse goes on, "For he that comes to God must believe two things." And on this one we usually quote the first half of it and like some verses you memorize part of it and that last part may not seem to be that important. The last part's really important, "Without faith it's impossible to please God and he that comes to God must believe two things. One, that He exists." You actually live your life as though an all powerful, all knowing, loving, compassionate God actually exists and cares about you. But the second is, "and that He richly rewards those who diligently seek him."
Do you believe in a God that instead of arms crossed and being down on you, that he literally is like that parent on the edge of the pool saying to the one, "Come on, honey, jump. Jump. Come on, jump in. I want you to experience the water. There's a whole new world here." God is saying to many of us, "Take the step. Jump. I want to reward you. I want to reveal myself." The reason God uses some people more than he uses others is some people take a radical step of faith. And when you take a step of faith it pleases the heart of God.
Read the gospels with new eyes. Get a cup of coffee. Get up real early one morning. Or if you're a night owl, stay up late. And start in Matthew and read as fast as you can. I mean, only looking for the word "faith" and read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It's a short novel. And just look for only one thing. And you know what you'll find? Jesus has one agenda. The only time He ever gets upset with the disciples is their lack of faith. And the one thing He's teaching them, the number one agenda, is, "I want you to trust Me, My character, and My Word." Faith is simply doing what God tells you to do whether you feel like it or not, and in fact, especially when you don't feel like it, regardless of the circumstances because He said it and His Word is true.