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About this series
Turning God-Shaped Dreams into Reality
The God of the universe is looking for regular people to accomplish things beyond our wildest dreams. In this series, from Nehemiah 1 - 6, learn how God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things and the process by which He molds men and women for His purposes.More from this series
“For the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the whole earth that He might strongly support those whose hearts are fully His.” Think on that with me, okay? Get that into your head and your mind.
The eyes of the Lord – the Spirit of God, in this room, on this night – are going up and down, all through the aisles, and He’s looking for a man, or a student, or a woman whose heart is fully His, and He promises if He could find one man, or one woman, or one student, He would strongly support it.
What do venture capitalists do? They find people who have a dream, a vision, organization skills, and a plan, and then when they find the right people, with the right plan, at the right time, they fund it. And then, they keep track and they bring about expertise. That’s what God wants to do. He wants to fund your ministry vision, the Ephesians 2:10 calling on your life. And I want to tell you, we’re going to talk about how to know if your heart is fully His, and, if it is not, how to move, week by week, where He will do, in you and through you, things you never dreamed.
Because, actually, this book is full of stories of people who, if you would have met them before they became apostles, or if you would have met them before they stood at the edge of the Red Sea, or if you would have met them just before the invaders were coming, and they laid out this prayer before God and said, “There are a million or so of them, and three hundred thousand of us, and we’re going to be toast. And God, if you don’t do it…”
Every single one were just ordinary people. And God cares about your relatives, and He cares about the people you work with, and He cares about the people that are right next door to you.
And the fact of the matter is, is that He will strongly support you. He’ll give you whatever you need. If you need courage, you need faith, you need money, you need staff, you need an idea – whatever you need. If God can find a man, a woman, or a student whose heart is fully His, He will do extraordinary things through ordinary people, for His exclusive glory.
So, if you’ll pull out your teaching notes, let’s start the journey together. And that’s a great verse, and I actually memorized it years before I ever studied it. It was one of those verses that was, “Wow!” But let me give you a little background on it, because it means even more when you study the background.
It actually comes out of a story in 2 Chronicles 16. But the real story starts about verses 14 and 15. And it’s about a king named Asa. And Asa was a good king at a bad time. And in this time in Asa’s world, people are worshipping idols, they’re sacrificing their kids to Moloch and others. It was horrendous what was happening.
And most of the kings were involved in it. If you read 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Chronicles, it goes like this: bad king, bad king, bad king, bad king, bad king, okay king, bad king, bad king, good king, bad king, bad king. There are not very many good kings. In fact, Asa’s father didn’t do a great job, and the one before him was worse.
And Asa gets this heart for God – and it opens in chapter 14 – and he honored God because he removed the idols. And then, he started a little building program. And then, God gives him about ten years of rest, in the little area of Judah, he obeys God. And it begins to get cleaned up, and God sees his heart, and then, God brings a test.
There’s the army, the Cushites, it’s the northern part of Africa. And they have well over a million soldiers. And he’s got a decent army, but it’s like, This is impossible. And so, he goes out to battle and he literally says, “God, no one can stand against You.”
And you read the prayer. I encourage you to do it. And he basically says, “God, if You don’t show up, if You don’t do it, there is no way.” The odds are insurmountable. And they have this amazing victory that is supernatural by God.
And it’s so amazing that, when he gets done with the victory, a prophet comes. And the prophet says, “Asa, the Lord’s pleased with you” – and this is a great line; I read this afresh this morning – “and if you will be with Him, He will be with you. Asa, if your life lines up, and if you’ll be with Him, and do life His way, and align with Him, He will be with you. But if you turn away from Him, Asa, He’ll turn away from you.”
And Asa got it. And he pulled together all the people. And he said, “You know something? Historically, we are so far off.” And there’s this national repentance, and there’s this movement of God.
And then, another prophet comes. And so, he gets fifteen years of relative peace in a small area, and then, he gets another twenty years of massive success: building programs, removal of idols. There’s even a little line in there where it talks about he even removes the queen mother, his grandmother.
See, when you start getting really serious with God, He does stuff in you, and through you. There’ll be a few really touchy relationships where you’ve got to step up, and be honest, and clear, and walk with Him. And I think that text was saying, Asa, from bottom to top, was honoring God.
And then, we pick it up in chapter 16. And it’s the thirty-sixth year of his reign. So, he’s had thirty-five years of success. And there’s a great door of opportunity.
In verses 1 through 6 of chapter 16, here’s the door of opportunity: It looks like a bad situation. You can follow along, but what happens is, is that Judah and Israel are at odds, and the king of Israel is really making war on Judah right now.
And he’s got thirty-six years. And after time, you get a little bit older, if you’re not careful, you get comfortable. And you start relying on you, instead of relying on God.
And so, he sees this problem, and so he hires some mercenaries – the king of Aram. He empties his treasury, and the king goes ahead, does what he said he would do: He attacks Israel. Israel withdraws. Hey, great, things are okay.
Now, let me read, because I want you to pick up the text in verse 7 of chapter 16 of 2 Chronicles. And he’s thinking, I’m a good man. I’ve been a good king. I’ve got thirty-five years under my belt. We had a problem; I had the resources, took care of the problem.
“At that time, Hanani, the seer, or the prophet, came to Asa, the king of Judah and said to him, ‘Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand.’”
See, God’s plan, when He brought that difficulty – He wanted to use the biggest, new difficulty for a greater and greater opportunity of victory. But he said, “You kind of blew it.”
And then, he reminds them: “Were not the great number of Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet, when you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand.”
And then, we get our verse. See, this is an axiomatic characteristic of God. This isn’t just an Old Testament passage. He rebukes him, and he says, “For the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the whole earth.” This is a principle. This is how God works.
“Don’t you understand, Asa, if you would have relied on Him now, like you used to, the hand of God, and the support of God, and the victory of God. But instead, what you did is, you grew comfortable, and you relied on you, and on your resources, and you missed.”
And, unfortunately, if you continue to read, Asa’s response is a little less than we’d hope. And he gets a little contrary, and throws a few people in prison, and it’s really a bit of a sad ending.
A great door of opportunity, a sad commentary. And here’s what I tell you: When you read through this book, or when you read through Church history, a lot of people start well in the Christian life. Very, very few finish well.
If you are fifty years and older, and you’ve walked with the Lord for fifteen to twenty years, let me put an asterisk in your soul. Chances are, you will not finish well, unless you get intentional, unless you get focused.
What happens is, you get risk averse. When you were desperate, when you didn’t know anything, you’d read the Bible. It says it. I’ll try it. I’ll do it. God showed up.
And then, pretty soon, He blesses your life. And then, pretty soon, you find a little comfort level, and you’re operating on the verses of yesteryear. And then, pretty soon, it’s, “God, how can You make my life work?” And, “How can life not get too dangerous?” And you stop relying on God.
And if you’re not careful, you end up just a nice, moral, religious person who misses what God called you to do in this life. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be there. And I want to have a holy ambition. I want to make a difference with my life, until the day I die.
Well, the question is: will we answer God’s call to make a significant impact at this pivotal moment in history? All you need is three minutes of watching FOX or CNN, or one of the major stations to realize we’ve got nukes in a couple countries, with terrorists with the ability to get their hands on them very quickly.
We have an economy in Europe, that, because of outrageous debt, now they can’t sustain the system they’ve developed. We now have a global economy, where we had things teetering a couple years ago, but we don’t live independently any more. And it is not only a flat world, but the whole thing can go under. The whole thing can go under.
And yet, we now have people who actually believe, with all their hearts, that the way to paradise is to strap on a bomb, and intermittently go to various countries, and blow up people in the name of a false belief system, thinking that honors God.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if you think that just getting your kids in the right school, or, if you’re single, finding the right person, or getting that good job, or someday living in a gated community, or remodeling the house is going to be the big answer of life, you are deluded. We are living in a window of opportunity of time that God is calling His Church to step up and be difference makers.
And so, we’ve got a great door of opportunity. Read Church history. The Early Church – it wasn’t born out of things going great. There was crisis. There was crisis in the government. There was crisis in all these religions. There was crisis in philosophy. That produces a fertile environment where people, like never before, are open to not just hearing about Christ, but trusting Him, and walking with Him, and making a difference.
What will it mean for each of us? First of all, it means we’re going to have to model it. You can’t impart what you don’t possess. You’ve got to model it. You can talk all day – you have to live it out. You can do God talk in the mall, but you’ve got to do God walk at home, and God walk at the job, and God walk in your family. See, you have to model it.
I was talking to a man on the plane – he’s an answer to a three or four-year prayer. This was bizarre. I got on the plane to come from Dallas and a couple said, “Excuse me, we’re a husband and wife – would you mind if we sit here? Could you sit here, and we’ll sit here?” And I said, “I’m traveling by myself, that’s fine.” So, they sit here, and I sit here, and a guy sits next to me.
And I’ve been praying about, how do you multiply groups, and, “God, how does it really work?” And I understand bits and pieces – I’ve been reading. I’ve been thinking. I’ve been looking at churches. I’ve looked at things around the world. I know there’s a way, and I’ve got pieces, but I don’t understand it all. And I sit next to a guy who, in the last eighteen years, was responsible for writing the strategy for, and pioneering, planting, a hundred thousand churches around the world.
And I said, “David, are you tired?” He said, “Not particularly.” I said, “That’s very good, because I’m getting my legal pad out, and you’re going to be answering questions for the next three hours.” He said, “Fire away.” I said, “Brother, I am.”
And I’ll tell you, when I got done, I said, “Okay, where can I get this?” He put pieces together that I’ve never seen.
I’m just telling you, God is working in our midst. And it will require every person in this room, and every person in this church, to discover the holy ambition that He has for you.
But it starts where we model it. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect. That means we’re making progress, and we say what we say, and we do what we do, and when we mess up, we say things like, “I messed up.”
Second, it requires focus. The key to impact is concentration. And the key to concentration is elimination.
If those last two quotes I’ve made sound a lot like Howard Hendricks, it’s because it’s Howard Hendricks, my mentor.
I was listening to a series, and it’s called The Ceiling of Complexity. As you work hard, and you get focused, and you do a few simple things, then that grows, and then that grows, and that grows.
Then, you have to have meetings to talk about the simple things that grew into big things. Then, you have to write reports about the simple things that grew into the big things. And then, you have to hire people, or we get involved in other things.
And then, pretty soon, your life – anybody have stacks at home? Clutter, clutter, clutter, stacks, stacks, stacks, email, email, email, phone, phone, phone? And, actually, many of you are very successful. And then, what happens is, you hit a ceiling. And you unwisely, like me, believe that the way you break through the ceiling is working harder and longer. Mmmm. That’s not what the research demonstrates.
The fact of the matter is, your paradigm has to completely change, and you have to simplify your life. And you have to realize, you’ve got to focus. And there are a number of things that you’ve been doing, doing, doing, that made you successful, that you have to step back and say, “Some of those I can’t do anymore, and some people will be a little upset because I’m drawing a boundary. And I’m going to get back to the simple, focused things that I’m best at, that I love to do, that caused the growth in my life, my family, and my relationships.”
Most people today are flashlights: diffused light going multiple directions, with high frustration, and lack of productivity. People who are laser beams have discovered the few things they can do. They say “no” to a lot of things, and to a lot of people, and they do a few things extraordinarily well. And a laser beam can cut through a steel door. And a flashlight can see about thirty feet across the room. So, which are you?
And we’ve believed, we have started to believe that the invisible gun that we hold to our head – that someone else’s hand is on it, and it’s not. It’s yours, and it’s mine: “I have to be here. I’ve got to go here. I’ve got to go here. I’ve got to go here. My kids are involved in four youth sports, and I’ve got these three meetings, those two meetings.” Time out. Who signed up for that? Who said your kids have to be involved in that much?
“Well, I have to do this, and this. We’re both working.” Well, who says you both have to work? “Well, we’d have to rent, instead of buy.” Well, who says you have to buy?
At the end of the day, you make choices. I make choices. And they determine everything. And some of the subtle choices you’ve made have ripple effects that have you living a life that you don’t like, that’s not fulfilling what you were made to do, and you keep hitting these walls.
It will require that we model it, and then, it requires focus. And the key to focus is concentration. The key to concentration is elimination.
And so, it will mean, for each of us, that God gives us a holy ambition. God is searching, as intently today as He was in Asa’s day, to strongly support those whose hearts are fully His. He’s looking for those who would dare to dream, and to believe that they can, in fact, change the world – and I would really say it like this: change your world.
No one knows your world, and the needs, like you do. It’s the people you love. There are certain things. We don’t have to change the world if we will each change our little sections, and the things that cause our hearts to beat faster, and the needs, and the hurts that cause something inside of us – where the Spirit of God is pulled out, and He says, “If you had more time, you could really care, and make a difference.”
And we keep telling the Spirit, “Well, I will, later, when things slow down.” And I’ve got news for you: That “later” is never coming. It comes when you say, “God, I will listen to Your voice, and rearrange my time." And those who do that experience a holy ambition.