Witnessing the culmination, the end result of commitment excites us doesn’t it? My heart is stirred by people who make huge sacrifices to pursue something that others think is out of reach, something outside of their comfort zone, possibly even beyond their ability. Those rare folks whose ears tune out the world’s voice crying out, “You can’t! You shouldn’t! You won’t!” are the men and women that we remember. They are the ones who willingly say, “No!” to many things in order that they can say, “Yes!” emphatically “Yes!” to one thing—and they stick with it. The world may ridicule this single-minded mentality, but what has the world ever accomplished? The crowd may snicker and make jokes, but what has the crowd ever done that’s been of lasting value?
Commitment, consecration, and dedication are lonely words—words of sweat, sacrifice, and solitude. They are words that describe those who go against the flow, who swim upstream while the crowd is looking for the course of least resistance, and hunting the easy road. Walter Henricksen wrote in his book, Disciples Are Made—Not Born, about the dedication of the great explorer Cortez. He tells the story like this,
When Cortez landed at Vera Cruz in 1519 to begin his conquest of Mexico with a small force of 700 men, he purposely set fire to his fleet of 11 ships. His men on the shore watched their only means of retreat sinking to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. With no means of retreat, there was only one direction to move, forward into the Mexican interior to meet whatever might come their way. (Walter Henricksen, Disciples Are Made—Not Born.)
Those who are committed are those who are willing to venture into the unknown, the uncharted territory, where fear lingers and the possibility of failure is always present. Those who are consecrated to a cause are those who burn their ships of safety, their vessels of security, and press on. I want to ask you today, “What ship do you need to burn? What ship is holding you back from giving your all to Jesus Christ? When God calls you to step out in faith, to venture into the unknown, but fear sets in—what ship do you seek to climb aboard in order to calm your nerves and give you peace? Those are the questions that I pray the Lord will answer for you and me this morning before we leave this time of study. I pray the Lord will answer us and show us which ships we need to burn so that this morning we might step out of our comfort and say, “Consecrate me, O God! Lord, I devote all of my life to You. Use me for Your glory!”
There are others who have gone before us who have sensed, so strongly, that the Lord was calling them to surrender their lives, all of their lives, regardless of the cost. The great English evangelist, George Whitefield, once said, “O Lord, give me souls, or take my soul.” Henry Martyn, a missionary to India, cried as he knelt on India’s coral sands, “Here let me burn out for You God.” David Brainerd, a missionary to North American Indians, declared, “Lord, to Thee I dedicate myself. Oh, accept of me, be thine forever. Lord, I desire nothing else; I desire nothing more.” Dwight L. Moody poured his heart out before the Lord and prayed, “Use me, then, my Savior, for whatever purpose and in whatever way Thou mayest require. Here is my poor heart, an empty vessel; fill it with Thy grace.” Jim Elliot, a young missionary who was martyred for his faith, encouraged others to serve when he wrote, “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
There is little debate that today in the American Church, we have lost our sense of “consecration.” Our being part of the Body of Christ and belonging to a local body of believers has more to do with what we can get out of our participation than anything else. So many folks are like the lady that Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Community Church, spoke about. The lady called the church after hours inquiring about the church’s ministry. The woman said, “We are looking for a church where we can be blessed.” The pastor said, “Well that’s fine, but we are looking for members who will be a blessing.” The lady said, “We are looking for a church where we can be fed.” The pastor said, “We are looking for members who will feed others.” The lady said, “What kind of church is that?” And that is where we find ourselves today in the American Church.
The loss of consecration has had a devastating impact on the Body of Christ and the local church. When God’s people have a strong sense that their lives, every facet of their life, is to be set apart, not for their own pleasure but for the purposes of God, then the Body of Christ can function in a powerful and effective way. When God’s people fail to consecrate themselves to the work of God, then the Body is ineffective, and ungodly attitudes will have a negative impact on the entire Body. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.
Pastor Jim Cymbala was speaking to 800 music leaders a few years ago who gathered for a conference at The Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York. Pastor Cymbala was talking about the need for consecrated choir members when he said,
We have seen a tragic change take place in the Body of Christ. Instead of your choir seeing themselves as ministers called by God to touch the lives of others, they come to choir practice and act like they are doing you a favor—like they are doing you a favor.
The plague that Pastor Cymbala was speaking about is the loss of a sense of consecration. If we are truly followers of Jesus then our lives should be marked by a deep sense of humility and service. It is an honor and a privilege to serve the Father. If you are a teacher—you are not merely teaching the kids or adults who sit in your class—you are serving the Lord! If you are sitting up tables in the gym or classroom—you are not just sitting up tables for those who will sit at them—you are serving the Lord! If you are greeting people on Sunday morning, stocking shelves at Britvil, sorting pill bottles at the King’s Klinic, singing in the choir, preparing food for “Friend Day,” donating your time to the kids and families who will come to “Fall Fest,” filling communion cups on Sunday morning, helping one of the “HIS Kids” with their homework, picking up trash from the lawn, visiting a shut-in, playing an instrument for worship, or participating in any number of ministry opportunities that take place each week—you are not performing a job—you are serving the Lord!
We have lost our sense of calling, the deep commitment of consecration, and as a result we have grumbling and belly aching about what we have to do for the “church” instead of an overwhelming sense of awe for what we get to do for God. Because we have lost the meaning of consecration we now have people who come to church without giving a thought to glorifying the Father or ministering to those around them, but only to be blessed and fed.
The tragedy is that we have lost the sense of awe and reverence and wonder of our holy, consecrated God who calls us to be consecrated to His service. In Leviticus, God spoke to His people and said,
2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.’ (Leviticus 19:2 NIV)
We are called to be in the Lord’s service. Not just on Sunday. Not when we feel like it, but each moment of each day we are called to be in the Lord’s service.
The people of Macedonia led a consecrated life of service to the Lord. Their situation was difficult and yet they continually laid themselves at the altar of their King for His service and glory. Let’s take a look at 2 Corinthians 8:1-11.
1And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. 5And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. 6So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7But just as you excel in everything– in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us–see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 10And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. (2 Corinthians 8:1-11 NIV)
This is a powerful little section of God’s Word that few folks have taken the time to pray through. Before we look at some practical ways to fully consecrate our lives to the Lord, I want us to take a look at the situation in Macedonia.
When we examine our lives in the light of the lives of the Macedonian believers, we can’t stand back and say, “Well, if I didn’t have things so difficult, if I weren’t so busy, or if I had some talent, then I would serve the Lord.” The Macedonian believers were living in abject poverty, none of their skills are mentioned in this Scripture, and they had the same amount of time that you and I have. What is mentioned about the Macedonians that set them apart from many modern-day believers is this: “They gave themselves first to the Lord.” There lies the key to living a consecrated life. Paul says of the Macedonian believers,
2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. (2 Corinthians 8:2-4 NIV)
These brothers and sisters were going through severe trials; their lives were being pummeled by hardships. They were experiencing extreme poverty. Yet, they were characterized by joy and rich generosity. I don’t think Paul is simply talking about their generosity in regards to money—I am convinced that he was speaking about the generosity that characterized their entire lives.
Their consecration led to a complete redefinition of life for the Macedonians. They believed that their lives were not theirs to do as they pleased. Their lives were given to them to do what pleased the Father. They believed that their time was not their own to do as they pleased. Their time was given to them, by the Father, to bring Him glory. Their finances were not theirs to spend on their every desire and want, but it was given to them by God to build and bless the Kingdom work going on around them. I don’t know about you, but I truly desire that when I go home to be with the Father that someone would be able to say, “Mike Hays lived a consecrated life. He gave of his best to the Master.” For that to take place I must follow in the footsteps of my Macedonian brothers and sisters who gave themselves first to the Lord.
Have you surrendered your heart to the Lord? “Why, of course. I go to church don’t I?” I didn’t ask you if you went to church—I asked if you had totally surrendered your heart to the Lord? That is something altogether different than attending church. Can you say that regardless of your station in life—whether you are experiencing lack or abundance, no matter your circumstances or situation, no matter whether you feel adequate or inadequate to do the task at hand that your heart is totally surrendered to the Lord?
Maybe this morning the Lord is calling you to surrender your heart to Him? Maybe you have surrendered many of the rooms of your heart to the King, but there is still one room that you have kept for yourself. You’ll let the Lord in to the public areas of your life, but there is still one room that is off limits even to Him. Maybe the Lord is calling you to unlock that door that holds in everything you have kept from Him in the past and surrender that room of your heart to Him right now. Once we have surrendered our whole heart to the Lord, then He can begin to use us to bring Him glory, honor, and praise in every aspect of our lives. That is our heart’s desire isn’t it?
If you have surrendered your heart to the Lord, but you say, “Mike, I just don’t see any way possible for me to fit anything else into schedule, there is no way for me to begin to tithe 10% of my income, and I don’t feel confident enough about any ability I have to use it in public.” I appreciate your honesty and it is at the place of genuine honesty that God can really begin to make some changes in our lives. You need to know that regardless of the area of your life that you are struggling in seeking to consecrate to the Lord—you will have to make some hard decisions. To say, “Yes!” to the Lord means that we will have to say, “No!” to other things that are vying for our time, talents, and finances. Let’s take a look at each area of our life and examine our commitments.
Every person in this sanctuary and throughout the world has the exact same amount of time. It is the only resource, except for God’s grace, that God has distributed equally to people. The question is not, “How can I find more time?” The question is “How am I presently using the time the Lord has given to me?” Am I using my time to do what is most important to God or am I using my time to fulfill my own desires?
There are opportunities every day to go to ball games, attend concerts, visit interesting sights, watch television, and do any number of other things, but that means we will have to say, “No!” to other opportunities if we elect to do those things. I don’t know about your life, but most of the time choices that I have to make are not between “good” and “bad,” but they are choices between “good” and “God.”
There have been many times in my life that I have not made the right choice. I have chosen to use my time to fulfill my own selfish desires rather than to serve the Lord. I want my time to be consecrated to His service, but I need to be in constant prayer, and I need to be in constant fellowship with other brothers and sisters who can help me to remain true to my commitment.
I would like to invite you to track your use of time for one week. See where you are investing your time. At the end of the week sit down and examine the time commitments you have made that you could alleviate so that you could give that time to the Lord’s work.
There is not one person who attends this church who has not been given gifts by God to be used for the building up of other’s lives and the glory of God. I have an opportunity to spend time with many of you. This church is blessed with an enormous number of gifted people. Yet, I know many of you are hesitant to step up and take on a position of leadership because you don’t feel comfortable with your abilities. I want to encourage you to consecrate your abilities to the Lord and allow Him to develop your abilities and give you the courage to use those gifts to bless His name and His people.
Someone may say, “Mike, I really don’t know of anything I do very well.” Those of us who hold to that opinion need to realize that it is not our ability that God is concerned with—it is our availability that God desires. Some of you are so outgoing. I see you visiting with people and exchanging conversation so easily. You would be an awesome Greeter or friend to someone in the hospital or nursing home. We need folks who can smile and make others feel loved and needed. Others of you pray the most beautiful, heart-felt prayers I have ever heard. We need you to be intentional intercessors for the Body of Christ here at Britton Christian Church. We need you to join us at the “Sweet Hour of Prayer” as we labor in prayer for the needs of this church. There are so many gifts present in this sanctuary that are lying dormant. Will you consecrate those gifts for His service?
“How can I tithe when I’m already spending all of the money I get each payday for my family?” Someone is thinking, “I have figured up how much 10% of my income is—do you know what I could do with that money other than give it away to the church?” These are statements I have heard over and over again and I understand the predicament you feel. I need to ask you, “Do you honestly believe that your financial situation is unknown to God? Do you really believe that God is powerless to enable you to tithe and still make ends meet?” I also want to point out a glaring reality. Most people in America think that God’s way of doing finances is absurd. I mean, what sense does it make to give at least 10% of your income to the Lord’s work? You need to keep that money for yourself right? Ok. Let’s see how doing finances our way is benefiting us in America. In an article on MSN Money website we can gain some insight.
About 43% of American families spend more than they earn each year. Average households carry some $8,000 in credit card debt. Personal bankruptcies have doubled in the past decade. American consumers owed a grand total of $1.9773 trillion in October 2003, according to the latest statistics on consumer credit from the Federal Reserve. That’s about $18,654 per household, a figure that doesn’t include mortgage debt. The number is up more than 41% from the $1.3999 trillion consumers owed in 1998. (“How does your debt compare?” by Kim Khan, http://moneycentral.msn.com)
I guess doing finances our way isn’t really getting us anywhere except further in debt. I can explain why. When you view your financial resources as a gift from God you use those resources in a totally different way than when you think they are yours. When you decide to make the first check you write to God then you trust Him to help you stretch what’s left to pay your bills and you say “No” to many frivolous things that really aren’t needed. God’s way of doing finances is rooted in gratitude for His provision and responsibility for being a good steward of every cent.
God’s desire is to birth within each and every one of us the discipline necessary to live within our means trusting Him to provide us with our “daily bread.” God desires for you and me to examine our finances, and regardless of our present situation, trust Him to provide for what we need. I hope you noticed that I said, “need” and not “want.” There is a great difference. I know what I want, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is what God wants for me.
I don’t need the latest fad to come down the pipe. I would love to have a lot of things, but I don’t really need them. What I do need is to trust God to supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory. He has never failed to meet my needs, so I will continue to trust Him.
Each of these categories can all be traced to where we began—it is a matter of the heart. I asked you earlier if you had fully surrendered your heart to the Lord? Before you answer that question I need to explain what “surrender’ means. Surrender means to fully turn over every aspect of your life so that you can become the man, woman, boy, or girl that God desires for you to become. It means that you no longer have the final say about your future, your decisions, your commitments—you surrender the final word to the Father. Have you surrendered your heart to the King?
Several years ago Billy Graham received a letter from a pastor who was passing along a note from a young communist to his girlfriend. The letter is eye-opening in that it reveals the young man’s commitment to a lost cause. The young man wrote,
We communists have a high casualty rate. We are the ones who get shot and hung and ridiculed and fired from our jobs and in every other way made as uncomfortable as possible. A certain percentage of us get killed or imprisoned. We live in virtual poverty. We turn back to the party every penny we make above what is absolutely necessary to keep us alive. We communists do not have the time or the money for many movies, or concerts, or T-bone steaks, or decent homes, or new cars. We have been described as fanatics. We are fanatics. Our lives are dominated by one great overshadowing factor: the struggle for world communism. We communists have a philosophy of life which no amount of money can buy. We have a cause to fight for, a definite purpose in life. We subordinate our petty personal selves into a great movement of humanity; and if our personal lives seem hard or our egos appear to suffer through subordination to the party, then we are adequately compensated by the thought that each of us in his small way is contributing to something new and true and better for mankind. There is one thing which I am in dead earnest about, and that is the cause of communism. It is my life, my business, my religion, my hobby, my sweetheart, my wife, my mistress, and my bread and meat. I work at it in the daytime and dream of it at night. Its hold on me grows, not lessens, as time goes on; therefore, I cannot carry on a friendship, a love affair, or even a conversation without relating it to this force which both drives and guides my life. I evaluate people, looks, ideas, and actions according to how they affect the communist cause, and by their attitude toward it. I’ve already been in jail because of my ideals, and if necessary, I’m ready to go before a firing squad.
We are not part of a lost cause, my friends; we are part of the greatest cause the world will ever know, the cause of Christ! Yet as I survey the landscape of commitment, our willingness to sacrifice for the cause of Christ, my heart sinks. Are we as committed to the cause of Christ as this young man was to the cause of communism? If not, why not? What is holding you back? Won’t you give Him your heart today?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
October 22, 2006