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About this series
One at a Time
The Unexpected Way God Wants to Use You to Change the World
Have you ever considered the remarkable impact Jesus has had on history? Think about it… He lived over 2000 years ago and only had a small group of followers. Yet fast forward to today, Christianity is the leading world religion. So what was Jesus’ secret? In this 8-part series, guest teacher Kyle Idleman reveals the unexpectedly simple practices Jesus used to change our world. Don’t miss how you and I can continue the work He started… one interaction, one conversation, one life.. at a time.More from this series
So there’s a parable that I want us to look at in Matthew 13. If you have your Bibles you can turn there. Matthew 13. And I say, “a parable”; really, it’s two parables, but they’re each, like, two sentences long. They’re very brief parables. It’s in a passage here where Jesus is telling a lot of parables. There are a lot of stories that kind of pack a punch and unlock some deeper spiritual truth. And in this particular section He is giving us some different pictures of what the kingdom of heaven is like, and so He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like this, like this, like this.” And so each parable begins with, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy he went and sold all he had and he bought the field.”
He stumbles across it. Didn’t plan on it. Wasn’t looking for it. Just happened. Just an ordinary day, just an ordinary field, and then he finds this extraordinary treasure that changes his life. Kind of accidental, but changes everything for him. And he goes and sells everything he has, and then people are talking. “Ah, midlife crisis. What’s he doing? Selling his house, selling his oxen, selling…selling everything he owns so he can buy this field?” They don’t understand it, but he knows what he’s doing. He knows it’s a good exchange.
And then Jesus tells a second parable. So here’s what I want you to do, as you’re listening to this—is to try to identify how these two little parables are different. In the first one that we read, a man is working in a field. Presumably, he finds it; he hides it again, sells everything he has and buys it. Verse 44…or 45 and 46: “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great price, he sold everything he owned and bought it!”
So what’s different about those two? They both find a treasure. They both sell everything they have. What’s different about them? The first one…he stumbles onto it. It’s accidental. It just happens. Second one…he’s looking for it. He’s searching. He’s seeking. And as he looks for it, he finds it.
Now what I would argue is that most of the people who find themselves at intersections…it’s one of those two things. It’s one of those two scenarios. Either it’s accidental. They stumbled into it. Something happened to them that they didn’t plan on. Life went sideways on them. And in the midst of this challenging time, they stumble upon a treasure that they never really were seeking ahead of time.
That’s the story for some of you. Like, you spiritually you were not interested. You told yourself you were never going to do what you’re doing right now. Like, you…you said, “I’m not going to go to church, and if I go to church, I’m especially not going to that church.” And you’re here! Like, what happened? Well, chances are, something in your life kind of turned unexpectedly. And it might have been something difficult. It might have been something bad, but it led to something beautiful. You found, in the midst of that, treasure.
For others of you, you have been seeking. You’ve been looking a long time. Or you’ve got someone in your life like this. They’re always asking questions, and they’re always kind of pushing and looking. And you can just see the discontentment, and you can hear it when they talk. Boy, they’re looking for the pearl of great price. They need somebody to come in and say, “It’s right here. It’s right here. What you’re looking for is right here. I found it. You can find it, too.” But that tends to be the type of intersections that we’re invited into for people.
I asked some of my friends to just give me some examples of what this looked like for them. A buddy of mine, he told me about when he was in college. His girlfriend broke his heart. It was kind of this lonely…it was a lonely intersection for him. Kind of an intersection in the middle of a ghost town. And he felt very alone and was not plugged into any kind of church or…that wasn’t part of his story. But in that moment, somebody invited him to church. Got involved in a Bible Study men’s group. Now he’s leading a men’s group. Something happened. Something happened. In that moment, that intersection that he was at, somebody met him there, and it changed the trajectory of his life.
A woman told me that when she was eight years old her parents divorced, and she was scared. Just a lot of uncertainty in her world. Her neighbor noticed it, paid attention. They had a child about her age. They started inviting her to go to church with them. First time in her life, she starts coming to church. It was safe. Felt safe for her. She felt seen and loved and cared for. Totally changed her life, because a neighbor noticed that an eight-year-old was at an intersection all by herself.
One man told me that when he was in high school he got into some trouble. His girlfriend was pregnant, and he didn’t really know who to turn to or what to do. And he wasn’t a part of church. Wasn’t connected that way. But he had a basketball coach that was kind of like a mentor…actually assistant basketball coach that was like a mentor to him. But that basketball coach had never really shared Jesus or invited him to church.
But when he went and talked to the basketball coach about the situation he was in, the basketball coach said, “Why don’t you…? Why don’t you sit down? I want to… There are a few things I just want to talk to you about.” And he shared the Gospel with him, said, “Hey, I want you to start coming to church with me. We’re going to start doing that together.” Changed the direction of this man’s life.
An inmate told me that on the day he was sentenced, he went back to his cell. Like, he was in the cell. He came out, got sentenced, was sent back to the cell in total despair. And one of his cellmates that he had gotten to know came over and, at that time, shared his testimony and said to this man, “Hey, this may feel like the end of your life. I remember what that was like.
But with Jesus, it can be the beginning.” The guy who was sharing the story said, “You know, a day earlier I don’t know that I would’ve listened to him, but in that moment I listened to him.”
It’s like the man in that cell with him was waiting. Like, Oh, I know what it’s like to hit this intersection. When he hits this intersection, it’s going to be my time. When he comes to this place and he’s forced to slow down and stop and look in both directions and consider where he’s going and how things are going to end up, that’s…that’s it. That’s the moment I’m going to lean in and say something. That moment comes. He steps in, “Let me tell you my story. My story is a lot like yours. Here’s the difference that Jesus made.” And it made all the difference in this man’s life because of who met him at that intersection.
And so that’s the challenge for us—is to just prayerfully look for the intersections around us. You’re going to have those opportunities this week. I want to give you…before we’re done…I want to give you four roads that kind of come together to create a spiritual intersection, okay? Four roads that come together to create this intersection.
Number one is interest, and this goes both ways. When someone is asking any kind of spiritual question, or if they’re…if they’re sharing something that’s a little bit vulnerable with you, there’s a tendency, especially with us guys if another guy’s doing it, to try to help them not be vulnerable by changing the subject. So they kind of get the courage to say something, and we’re like, “Eh, we’re not…we’re not going there.” And we think we’re helping them by not leaning into it but by kind of saving them from that moment. You’re not helping them. Instead, you lean into that moment a little bit more.
You show interest by asking questions. And there’s just something really powerful about not coming with information and answers, but coming with questions. The more you show interest in someone, the more you’re earning an opportunity to be there for them at an intersection. If you come in and you’ve got nothing but answers and solutions, you’re going to lose the opportunity to be there for them at an intersection. But if you show interest and you ask questions, it makes all the difference.
Second road is the road intercession. Intercession. This is where you pray specifically for people. Our tendency is to intercede on behalf of ourselves, right? So do a prayer inventory. Just ask yourself, “Who am I praying for by name?” Who are those “one at a time” people in your life? And they can be your kids. They can be your grandkids. I had a grandmother tell me after service that her “one at a time” person is her granddaughter. And I love that. And you pray for them by name, and then you pay attention to what’s happening in their life. And as you do that, you will learn to lean in differently.
As a parent, I have three who are out of the house. I have a seventeen-year-old who’s a junior in high school this year. But one of the things I’ve learned is that I will notice the intersections in their life much more effectively if I’m praying for them specifically. Like, if I’m taking time to pray for them every day, I’m much more aware of the intersections that I need to step into. And I’ll tell you, sometimes those intersections come at, like, inconvenient times.
Especially, I remember when they were younger, the girls…like, I’d go say goodnight to them. We’d say prayers, and I’d get ready to leave their room, because I’m tired and I’m exhausted and I’m ready to go to bed, too. And I’m walking out of their room, and in the darkness right as I almost made it to the door, I’ll hear this, “Hey, Dad?” And for some reason, that’s when they wanted to talk. The impact you could have in that moment…because that’s where they’re at then…is much more significant than what you’re going to have driving home from school the next day.
The third thing I would say…third road here…would be interruptions. You pay attention to interruptions. When someone’s life is unexpectedly interrupted, it has the potential to change things for them dramatically. And maybe it’s something good and positive, or oftentimes it’s something difficult and challenging. But notice when someone’s life gets interrupted.
I often have people at church…will say to me, “Hey, I’ve got this person in my life that I need to encourage or help,” or, “I’m worried about their salvation. I want to share Jesus…I want to witness to them, but I don’t know what to say. I don’t know when to say it.” What I’ll usually say is, “Look, pray about this. Build a relationship, and then just wait. Like, not because you’re afraid, but wait for the moment. Like, wait for the intersection to show up.” Because if you’re praying for them by name and if you’re building a relationship with them, then you’re going to walk with them; and at some point, they’re going to find themselves at an intersection and you’re going to have an opportunity to share. And it’s going to mean a lot more to them if you catch them at the intersection, right? Because an intersection is where you slow down. An intersection is where you stop. It makes all the difference if you can find them there. So pay attention for interruptions.
Lastly is involvement. Involvement means that you do something, that you say something. Involvement is oftentimes inconvenient. Involvement is oftentimes messy. But sometimes you are the person who is best positioned to step in and say something. Sometimes you are the answer to a prayer. It just so happens, like, that this tends to be what I might call a major intersection…this room. And I have loved, over the years, getting to witness that.
And one of the things I can tell you is that the intersections often sound the same. That someone will come and they’ll say, “Hey, I never thought I would be here. Never thought I’d be going to church.
But here’s something that happened in my life, and…” And they find themselves at an intersection, and they really need some grace, and they really need some hope, and they need forgiveness, and they need a second chance. They need a new direction; they need a purpose. And they come here to find it, and it’s just this sacred privilege and joy to be able to catch someone at that intersection in their lives.
I remember a number of years ago I was preaching on a Saturday night. After the sermon, there was a man who was ready to make a decision, and I talked to him. He was pretty emotional, and he told me that he and his wife had separated; and he just took responsibility for it. Talked about some sins in his life and failures and mistakes. He hadn’t been to church since he was a kid, but he desperately knew in this moment he needed God’s help. He didn’t know how to pray, but knew that God was the only one who could save him.
And he was here, believing that, “Okay, this is one last shot, but… Maybe I’m too far gone.” And I said to him, “You know, you are not here by accident.” All right? I said that to him. I’m saying that to some of you. You’re not here by accident. Like, God has brought you here at this intersection in your life for a purpose. And we prayed, and he confessed his sin and talked about, in his prayer, his need for Jesus as his Savior. And I got him connected to a decision guide to help him with next steps. And then Sunday morning, I preached the same sermon. These two ladies came to make a decision, and one had the arm around the other and one of them was just emotional. And I talked to her for a moment, and I said, “Tell me what’s going on. How can I pray for you?” And she said, “Well, I haven’t been to church since I was a little girl, but my husband and I separated. And I feel like I should just give up on my marriage. I should just give up on him. But I don’t want to give up before I just ask God for help. And I don’t even know how to do that, but I’m here.”
And she shared her story with me, and I started to get, you know, goosebumps. And I said, “Hey, you didn’t mention your husband’s name. Tell me your husband’s name.” And she said his name. And I’m like, “You may not believe this, but your husband came to church last night and gave his life to Jesus. He’s starting down a different path.” And she’s like, “No, you’ve got the wrong guy.” I’m like, “No. I…like, I was…I was there. I talked to him.” And I just can’t quite explain the joy of watching two people find the treasure at the same time. I love that.
I want to invite you to spend your life at other people’s spiritual intersections. I want to invite you to make that your mission. No matter what you do for a living, no matter what neighborhood you live in or where you go to school, no matter who your friends are or are not on social media—I want to invite you to spend your life at other people’s intersections. It is so beautiful.
And I know that there are some of you right now, like, this is that moment for you. Like, this is a sacred intersection for you. You are struggling, you’ve got questions and doubts, you are dealing with some anxiety and depression, and it feels crippling to you, you’ve got some guilt and shame in your life, because there are these secrets that nobody knows about, and you don’t know what to do about it and you feel like your life has kind of spun out of control. And you’re here, and it’s not an accident that you are. It is our privilege to meet you at these intersections. We love you. We’ve all been at the types of intersections you’re at. You’re not alone. Jesus wants to meet you right there.