daily Broadcast

In Then Through, Part 1

From the series One at a Time

Stop for a second and think of that one person you care about, that isn’t walking with Jesus. Maybe it's a co-worker, a friend, or a family member. And despite your best attempts to share your faith with ‘em – nothings worked. So what now? In this program, guest teacher Kyle Idleman shares the simple way God wants to reach our loved ones – and how we can be a part of His plan.

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Message Transcript

I really believe that deep down we all want to live significant lives. Like, I don’t think anybody would say, “Hey, I just want to be a time-waster, space-taker, game-player, binge-watcher, church-attender, book-reader.” Like, I want to do more than that. I want to be a difference maker. But we’re not sure how to do it.

Maybe you’ve tried in some ways, and it really hasn’t worked out how you thought it would. Maybe you’re in a relationship with someone, and you’re trying to impact them. Maybe a friendship, maybe as a parent, maybe in your marriage. You’re trying to lead them, trying to love them in a way that would bring out some good things, but it doesn’t seem to be working very well. And you’re not sure what to do about it, and maybe you’re a little bit discouraged. So where do you start? How is it that God uses us to change the world?

Well, there’s this “in then through” rhythm that we see consistently in Scripture. It’s the way of the Kingdom. It’s in and then through. That God does work in us, and then as He does work in us, He begins to accomplish some things through us. If you’re like me, you kind of want to skip the in part and go straight to the through part. Like, God, use me today in some significant way. I want to make a difference today. And God says “Well, there are some things that I need to do in you first.” And I don’t always have the patience for that. Don’t always have the desire for that. I want to be used by God. God, what do You want to do through me? and God keeps coming back and saying, “Here are some things I want to do in you.” And yet what I have discovered, oftentimes the hard way, is that what God does in me, He will do through me.

And I think that’s true for you. I think it’s true for us as a church. That there are some things God wants to do in us, and as some things happen in us, we start to see Him do His work through us. So for some of you listening to this, like, your greatest desire, maybe as a parent, is to spiritually impact your kids. But you’re trying to lead them in a place where you yourself are not going, and it’s not going to work. Like, it’s got to be in you and then it’ll be through you.

And so I want us to talk about that for a little while—this “one at a time way” that God works through us, but it starts in us. I’ll just start by being honest with you. That I have long wanted God to do things through me, but one of the ways I’ve resisted His work in me is when it comes to loving people one at a time.

And so I remember going to Kroger. And by the way, it’s Kroger. Stop saying, “Krogers.” If you’re going to more…look, if you’re going to go to more than one Kroger, that’s fine. You can say, “Krogers.” But I was walking through the aisle and I…I thought I might run into one of you all there. You knew me, but I didn’t know you—and that made me feel anxious. And so I got on my phone…real phone…but had a pretend phone call the whole time I was in there. The whole time I’m walking through Kroger, I’m like, “Hey, yeah. Hey, Babe. Yeah, I’m at Kroger. Yeah, what can I get for you while I’m here?” I…I’m just talking to no one, trying to avoid people. That’s not healthy.

And then I went from avoiding people to being annoyed by people. Not great if you’re a pastor. And so I was asked to go visit a small group here in the church. They had some questions about a study they were going through. And I went, but mostly because it was part of the job, not because my heart was in it. And so I showed up at the small group, and we finish. Kind of watching the clock. Finally, I’m done. The person in charge of the small group says, “Hey, we want to circle up for prayer,” and I think I made an audible noise like, “Ugh.” Not what you want to hear from the pastor when you say, “Let’s pray.” But again, just being honest…twenty years ago.

And so we stood in a circle for prayer, and we held hands with one another. I was holding hands with this guy who, during the prayer, would squeeze my hand during the parts of the prayer that he really agreed with. Like, that’s how he “amen’d” it. Every time somebody prayed something that he liked or thought was true, like… (Kyle making a squeezing motion with his hands) “Amen. Amen. Amen.” And then his hand started sweating, and he kept squeezing. So now I’m standing next to this sweaty squeezer, and just getting more, more and more angry in my soul.

And I knew something had to change. Like, this isn’t what God has called me to do. I knew He wanted to do something through me. I felt called to be a pastor, and I knew God wanted to use me in some ways. But I recognized, in that moment, there are some things that God needed to do in me, because I didn’t see people the way that Jesus saw people. And so I began to pray a prayer that I’ve prayed for over twenty years, Jesus, give me Your eyes for the one. Help me to see people the way that You see people.

And I discovered that the secret of Jesus, when He was surrounded by crowds and always with people who had these needs and expectations, is He would focus in on the one. Unapologetically, He would focus in on the one. And I began to pray, Jesus, would You help me to see people the way You do? Would You disciple me to love people the way that You love people?

And one of the things that I would tell you is part of being a disciple of Christ, part of growing in spiritual maturity, is how you love others. Like, sometimes we think of discipleship as gaining information and behavior modification. We tend to define discipleship that way, maybe subconsciously. But gaining information (“I know more things theologically, biblically, than I did before.”) and behavior modification (“I’ve stopped doing these things, and I’ve started doing these other things.”).

But I would say that maybe the greatest test of discipleship is how you love others. It’s how you love others. And Jesus wants to disciple us to love people that way that He loved people.

And you see this throughout the New Testament when it came to the disciples. They had to grow in this. They were irritated, frustrated, annoyed by people again and again. And again and again, Jesus says, “No, this is how you see people. This is how you love people.”

So I jotted down a few examples in the Gospels. Matthew 14, Jesus is teaching a crowd of thousands. The disciples realize that the people are hungry. Their solution is to suggest to Jesus, “Hey, the people are hungry. Send these people away so that they can get something to eat. It’s not our problem, so send them away. Let them get some food.” And Jesus says…it says that Jesus had compassion on the crowd, and He fed them. Cared for each one of their needs.

And then you go to Matthew 15, and the Canaanite woman cries out to the Lord, “Have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering.” And verse 22 says, “Then His disciples urged Jesus to send her away. ‘Tell her to go away. She’s bothering us with all of her begging’” (NLT). Do you hear what’s happened in their hearts? That they have spent a lot of time around a lot of people with a lot of needs, and they’re just done. “Would you just tell her to be quiet? She’s bothering us with her begging.” And Jesus stops, and He loves her like a daughter. He cares for her. He heals her daughter.

Matthew 19—little children are brought to Jesus so He could pray for them and bless them. The disciples are annoyed. It’s a busy day. They’ve got a lot on the calendar—things they need to do, appointments they need to keep. And they tell the children, “Not today. He doesn’t have time today.” They rebuke the children, and Jesus rebukes them. “No, no, no, no. Let the children come to Me.”

And again and again, you just see this in Scripture—where the disciples have to be discipled to love people the way Jesus did. That there were some things that needed to happen in them so that God could accomplish His great work through them. And what happened to the disciples needs to happen for us as disciples today. That there are some things that need to happen in us so that we can have the eyes of Jesus for the people in our lives. This is the “in then through way” of the Gospel.

And so a passage that I want us to look at here in just a moment is Mark chapter 4. You can go ahead and turn there. A lot of the parables that Jesus told kind of help us with this “one at a time way” of living. But I want to start, before we jump into this parable…I want to start by just asking you to think about how you would finish this sentence, okay? …or a prayer. “God, more than anything else, I want You to use me to…” So what is your prayer there? “God, more than anything else, I want You to use me to…” How would you finish that sentence? It’s a good prayer to pray. Do you have a way to end that? Maybe there’s something specific. Maybe a name or a face that comes to mind.

I asked some of my social media friends to finish that sentence. Here are some of the answers I got:

“More than anything else, I want God to use me to…”

• Introduce my family to Jesus.
• Show my cancer doctors the difference that Jesus makes.
• Give His love to the foster children in my home.
• Help addicts overcome their addiction the way my sponsor helped me.
• Care for women who are trying to get out of the adult entertainment industry.
• Introduce my neighbor to Jesus.
• Let the people I wait on as a server see that there’s something different in me.
• Use me as a single mom to raise my boys to be world-changers.
• Start new churches in Eastern Europe.
• Share the Gospel with prison inmates.
• Disciple my grandchildren.
• Reach out to everyone in my neighborhood.
• Show my husband that Jesus has changed my life.

On and on it goes. How would you finish that sentence? “More than anything else, I pray, God, that You would use me to…” And understand for Him to answer that prayer there are some things that need to happen in you.

And so this “in then through way” helps us love people one at a time, and you know, it’s not about the best practices or people skills. It’s not about social aptitude or relational IQ. It’s not about whether you’re an introvert, an extravert, a sanguine or a melancholy, an Enneagram 2 or an Enneagram 7. Like, that’s not it. It’s about the work that God is wanting to do in you.

So Mark chapter 4… Jesus is in a boat, teaching from the Sea of Galilee to a large crowd. “Listen!” He says, “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell among the path, and birds came and ate it up.” So place number one—some fell along the path. Verse 5: “Some,” secondly, “fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because there was no root.”

Verse 7…number three: “Other seed fell among thorns (or weeds), which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.” And finally, “Some seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

And I love this parable because this is one of the few parables where Jesus unpacks it. Like, He always was teaching in metaphors. There’s something powerful about a metaphor in that it allows you to meditate on it and think about it. That you look at it and it means one thing to you one day, and you look at it another day and you discover something new. And Jesus was always teaching in parables with metaphors. But this is a strange parable in that later the disciples ask Him, “What’s it mean?” and He says, “Huh…Here’s what it means.” Doesn’t usually give you that, but He does with this parable.

He ends it by telling about the farmer who threw seed on good soil that multiplied. Something happened in the ground, and it broke through, and there’s a harvest, which is ultimately what we want. Like, that’s how we want to live our lives. That God does work in us, and He does His work through us.

And so there is something that happens when a seed is in the soil. But here’s the thing: You can’t see it when it’s happening. A seed gets planted in the dirt, and in the dirt it’s maturing, it’s growing, it’s getting ready to break through. But nobody knows it. So what happens in the dirt doesn’t get much attention. And when the seed is in the dirt, it’s easy to get a little discouraged because you wonder, “Is anything ever going to happen?” And it’s hard to keep taking care of a seed when you can’t see anything happening. I mean, once you see it, then you’re a little more motivated. But when you don’t see it, then it becomes more difficult.

And one of the things I really want you to see, is the Word of God has been planted in some of your hearts and something is happening in the ground. And you haven’t seen some fruit yet, but it’s coming. So don’t be discouraged. The Bible says in Galatians that we “don’t grow weary in doing good. At the right time we’ll reap a harvest if we don’t give up.”

So some of you have started some new things. You started this year by praying, by studying God’s Word, by maybe journaling. You started this year by being more intentional, maybe, in listening to some worship music and leveraging your commute time. Maybe you started some new things, and the way you go to bed at night isn’t the way you went to bed at night last year. You’re not just scrolling through social media, but you’re spending some time in prayer and you’re meditating on some things. And maybe no one seems to notice, yet. Maybe nothing has broken through the ground, yet. And I’m telling you, don’t grow weary. Keep cultivating the seed. That there’s something that’s happening in the soil, and it will break through. You keep taking care of it. It’ll break through. It just takes time. And some of you need to hear that, because God’s wanting to do something powerful through you this year. First, there are some things He needs to do in you—and you just have to be patient with that work.

I had a gift that was given to me a few years ago by a lady in the church. She gave me a couple of packets of seeds. If I remember right, they were seeds for pumpkins and watermelons…which is fun. Our kids were younger at the time, and I’m sure she thought, when she gave me those seeds, “This’ll be great. This family can plant these seeds in the ground, and then they’ll have pumpkins and watermelons at just the right time.”

But I am not a farmer, and if I want a watermelon, I’ll go to the store and buy one. And if I want a pumpkin, I’ll pick one up in pumpkin season. Like, I love the idea of planting a seed and cultivating it and growing it, but it just takes so much time and effort and work.

And so I stuck those packets of seeds in the junk drawer in my kitchen where everything goes to die. And I left them there, and I forgot about ‘em. Didn’t really think much about them. But occasionally there would be a time where I would think, “Man, you know what sounds good right now is a watermelon.” And I would remember the watermelon seeds. But that didn’t do me any good at the time, because they needed to be planted…I don’t even know how long ago because I never actually read the back of the packet. Anybody in here know how long it takes to grow a watermelon? I didn’t think so. Don’t judge me.

And then there were times, like around Halloween, I’m like, “It’d be great to have a pumpkin,” and I’d remember the pumpkin seeds. But I needed a pumpkin then, and I didn’t want to do it, earlier—however long it takes to grow a pumpkin. Like, I don’t know how long that takes. I just know it takes a long time, and it requires effort and intentionality. But there’s a moment where you wish you had it.

This is the “in then through” challenge. And I think most of us, if you’re a parent, you’ve certainly experienced it. Where you’ve needed something within you, spiritually or emotionally, at a certain moment, but you realize in that moment you don’t have it. And if you were going to have it, you needed to start a long time ago trying to get it, right?

Or maybe in marriage… You reach this place in your marriage where you recognize there’s a certain way God wants you to respond. And that’s how you want to respond, but if you’re going to respond that way, you needed to start a long time ago learning to respond that way. And this is the “in then through” way of the seed. That today is the day that that seed gets planted and cultivated and begins to grow. Today is the day.