Several months ago our Staff read a book together. The book was called, “One Word.” It’s a tiny little book with a powerful message. The focus of the book is to lead the reader to prayerfully seek God’s leading in focusing on one word for the year. Each of us read the book, spent time in prayer, and then shared the word that God laid on our hearts. My word was “inspire.” I felt God was calling me to focus on living in such a way that others would be inspired during 2014. I don’t know how inspirational my life has been since I began focusing on the word eight months ago, but I do know that focusing on the word has led me to be more bold in reaching out and seeking to bless others. I had every intention of “inspire” being my word for the entire year, but things change. If you’ve lived more than a few years then you know that change is written into the fabric of living this life.
Two weeks ago, Connie and I dropped Annie off at college in St. Louis. It was a great weekend. The University of Missouri-St. Louis is a great college, Annie has a wonderful coach that she respects, and when I texted her a few days after classes started and asked, “Which of the girls on the team have you clicked with?” She responded, “Honestly, all of them.” What could be better?! She loves her teammates, coaches, and school.
I’ve always seen myself as a pretty tough guy. I’ve been through “3 a days” in 100 degree heat on “astroturf” in college, I’ve run a few marathons, and I’ve been through trials in life that have pressed me, broken me, but I’m not going to throw in the towel. Tough guy right? If you would have seen me after Connie and I prayed with Annie, hugged her, told her we loved her, and then walked to the car without her…you would have called me the biggest baby in the world. I could barely drive away from the dorm because my eyes were so cloudy. People who passed me on the highway probably thought I was having a seizure because my chest was heaving so heavily. I was a mess!
Some of my friends were texting me during the weekend and asking, “How’s it going?” They said they were praying for us and they knew it was a difficult weekend. I responded to everyone, “Annie loves it! Things are going great!” They were going great for Annie, but boy was I a mess. Cognitively I know that Annie growing up and taking the next step in life by heading to college is a positive, a great blessing. Emotionally, I just wasn’t there. Cognitively I focused on the wonderful opportunity Annie has been given. Emotionally, I was focused on all of the hours we had spent together and not getting to see her everyday.
Three or four days after we got back to Oklahoma City I was in my study reading God’s Word when a word came to me. It wasn’t “inspire,” it was “reorient.” I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, reading Scripture about, and praying about reorienting. I looked it up and found out that “reorient” is a verb, it is an action word that means, “to change focus or direction,” “to adjust or align in a new or different way,” or, and I really like this definition, “to find one’s position again in relation to one’s surroundings.” My surroundings have “changed.” My routine has suddenly changed. For years I’ve spent lots of time with Annie on the court and watching her play matches. This past summer, it was not uncommon for us to go to the court together in the evening because she wanted me to watch her hit serves. Now, my evenings are free, my routine has changed. I didn’t change my routine, I liked my routine, but my routine has changed. I’ve talked to Connie about this a lot since we dropped Annie off at college. I’ve also shared with Connie my new word, “Reorient,” and we’ve talked about how “reorienting” is such a necessity if we are going to truly walk in the fullness of God’s plan for our lives.
Change happens to all of us, right? You better believe it! Some of those changes come uninvited and they can really alter your life. The passage of time brings about change that is unavoidable, inescapable. Changes within relationships are certain to come. I’ve known people who have had to deal with changes in their lives and it has completely derailed them. Some sink deep down in the pits of depression because of the loss of “what was.” Others who face the same situation Connie and I are facing now with an empty nest, feel like their best days are over and done with. Their purpose was in their children and now that their children are grown they don’t think they have a purpose any longer. I can say with absolute confidence that it is not God’s will for you and me to allow changes in our life to sink us into the pits of despair or to cause us to lose our purpose in life. If the Bible is right in describing God as a God of purpose, then the changes that He allows to happen in our lives are meant to reorient us to our never changing God in this ever changing life. Let me explain what I mean.
Just think about the people we’ve read about in God’s Word who have “reoriented” because their life was interrupted, because of the changes God allowed in their lives. Abraham wasn’t looking to buy a little condo and take Sara to Sarasota for their retirement years. In his mind he was doing just fine when God came to him and said,
1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3 NIV)
God called him to leave everything that was familiar to him and follow God’s leading. Abram could have grieved the loss of the familiar, but instead he reoriented his life to God’s will and purpose. You and I have been blessed as a result!
Or, how about Joseph. Joseph didn’t ask to be sold as a slave to a bunch of foreigners, especially at the hands of his own brothers, but that’s what happened to him. Joseph was just 17 years old when he was sold by his brothers (Genesis 37:2). He was promoted to second in command of the land of Egypt when he was 30 (Genesis 41:46). During those thirteen years, Joseph was either serving in Potiphar’s house or doing time in the “big house.” That was not part of Joseph’s plan, but it was the reality he faced in life. Joseph could have sat in sackcloth and ashes and grieved all that he had lost, the injustice that had been done to him, or he could reorient to what had happened to him by going to God. Scripture testifies that Joseph did reorient his life to his new situation and in the end, when the truth of what happened came to light, Joseph praised God that even the harm his brothers had meant for him was part of God’s big plan. I would encourage you to read the whole story found in Genesis 37-50. This morning I want to show you a snippet of the scene when Joseph’s brothers pleaded with him for their lives and how Joseph responded. Turn with me to Genesis 50:18-21.
18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:18-21 NIV)
Joseph went to God so he could reorient his life, his thoughts, and his actions when life didn’t go as he had planned. Joseph refocused when life got blurry, unfamiliar, and uncertain.
When our lives get interrupted, when change comes, when disaster strikes, when it feels like our hearts have been ripped out, when we are absolutely dumbfounded and lost, we can do one of two things—we can reorient to our new surroundings or we can cross our arms, turn our back on God, and quit living. I didn’t dream up those two choices, I read about them this past week.
You all know the story of Job. He was a good man. No, he was more than that. The Bible describes him as “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” Job was a man with godly character. He was also a man who had been very blessed. We read in Job 1:2-3.
2 He had seven sons and three daughters, 3 and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East. (Job 1:2-3 NIV)
Then, in one day, he lost it all except for four of his servants. He lost ten children in one day. He lost his livelihood in one day: seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys, and all but four of his servants…in one day! If that weren’t enough, following his great loss, Job became covered from head to toe in painful sores. Talk about change. Talk about having your life interrupted. Talk about having every reason to throw in the towel. Job and his wife both experienced this tragic turn of events in their lives. While Job was scrapping his sores with a piece of broken pottery, we read what happened next.
8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. 9 His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:8-10 NIV)
Where we read, “curse God and die” coming from Job’s wife, the American Standard Version translates the word, “curse” as “renounce.” Just cross your arms, walk away, and die. Before we are too hard on Job’s wife, remember she went through the same tragic ordeal that Job did, plus she became her husband’s caretaker once he was afflicted with sores all over his body. She was exasperated, she was heartbroken, she was exhausted, and she had come to end of her rope. On the other hand, Job, rather than cursing God or walking away from God, said, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Now, let’s be honest. It’s almost beyond our comprehension to think that after suffering such incredible loss Job could maintain his focus on God isn’t it? Even though it might be next to impossible to think that we would respond in the same way, we must admit that Job was headed in the right direction both mentally and spiritually. We are to take everything to God, everything.
I was at the hospital Wednesday morning while Nate was in surgery. There were many people in the “surgery waiting room” that morning. I heard a man talking on the phone about his son who had fallen from a cell tower the day before. He was a broken man, experiencing excruciating pain. I was reading and minding my own business, but as I listened to him talk I sensed the Lord wanted me to go and speak to him. After he got off the phone I went over and introduced myself. I said, “I overheard your conversation and realized that you are the father of the young man who fell from the cell tower that I heard about last night. How is he?” He talked and talked. Lucas fell over 100 feet before his gear stopped him about 20 feet off the ground. They think the block and tackle hit his head on the way down and, as of Wednesday, he wasn’t doing well. They also think he may have had a stroke during his fall. The doctors just aren’t sure. I listened to Lucas’ dad, Gary, speak about his son and then I asked, “Can I pray for you?” Gary reached out his hand and I asked the God of all comfort to do what only He can do in Lucas’ life and in the lives of those who love him. After we prayed Gary thanked me and said, “We just have to trust God.” I said, “You can trust God.” Regardless of the changes that take place in our lives we must trust God and we can trust God.
Has your life ever gotten blurry? Somewhere along the way a plot twist came about that you hadn’t written into the script of your life. A change took place that you saw coming, but dreaded because you knew it would alter your life in a radical way. A tragedy came and sucked the life out of you. What did you do? Where did you run? The answers to that question are as varied as there are people, but when something happens that alters our lives, be it something as little as a child going off to college or something as tragic as a son falling from a cell tower, our first response, if we want to reorient to what God is doing in our lives, is to take it to God. Even if it seems like we should “do something” we must take it to God. Let me give you an example.
In 2 Chronicles 20, God’s people came under attack from the enemy. What was described as a “vast army” was heading towards them to destroy them. Jehoshaphat, the King, heard the news and it shook him. Let me show you what happened after that. Turn with me to 2 Chronicles 20 and let’s read together.
1 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. 2 Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. 5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD in the front of the new courtyard 6 and said: “LORD, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7 Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’ 10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:1-24 NIV)
Now, I’m sure you are as convinced as I am that if we were under attack our leader’s first response probably would not be to “resolve to inquire of the Lord.” I chose this Scripture because if you polled 100 people about what to do given this situation, I dare say 100 would say, “Call in the troops!” You and I will probably never be in the same situation Jehoshaphat faced, but we have and will find ourselves in many situations that will “alarm” us, shake us, and knock us to our knees. In those situations we are just as inclined to call in the troops, to do something, to fret and become frantic, but we need to remember Jehoshaphat. What did he do? He “resolved to inquire of the Lord.” Our first response must be to “resolve” in our minds and hearts to go to God.
If we will take everything to the Lord then He can give us a different perspective than anything anyone else can offer us. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. I’ve been to visit many people in prison during the years I’ve been in ministry. I can honestly say that not a single person, when I went to visit them, told me, “Mike, pray for me so that my boldness about Christ will impact the lives of the other inmates.” What I’ve heard more than anything else is, “Mike, you’ve got to get me out of here.” Or, “I didn’t do it.” There have been many occasions that I’ve gone to visit someone and said, “I want you to consider that the Lord has you here for a reason. I want to encourage you to pray that He will show you why He has you here.” That recommendation was usually received with silence.
I didn’t just pull that idea out of the sky when I offered it to my friends. I’ve read about Paul’s imprisonment in Rome and how he viewed his incarceration. Paul wrote to his friends and asked them to pray for him while he was in prison. He didn’t pray for justice! He didn’t suggest that they organize and march on Rome shouting, “No Justice! No Peace!” Want to know what he asked them to pray about? Let me show you. In Ephesians 6:19-20 we read,
19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6:19-20 NIV)
“An ambassador in chains.” I’m the highest ranking officer of Heaven on the yard and I want my time here to count! Paul wrote another letter while he was in prison, this one to the folks in Philippi, and he asked them to also pray for him. Turn to the opening chapter of Philippians and let’s read together.
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14 NIV)
What did Paul do? He reoriented his perspective according to God’s purposes for his life. Let me tell you about another prisoner. Charles Colson lost everything he had ever dreamed of becoming in life. He was President Nixon’s “hatchet man” in the White House until he was arrested and thrown in jail for the Water Gate scandal back in the early 70s. Before he went to prison Colson was far from a follower of Jesus. He once told a friend, “Oh, I think religion is fine, provided one has as little of it as possible.” After Colson got out of prison he was disbarred, his political career was over, and everything he had worked for and dreamed about was over. That is until he came to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior through some friends. Following his conversion, Charles Colson began a ministry called Prison Fellowship. Almost forty years later it is the most effective prison ministry in the world, working in over 125 countries around the globe. Charles Colson wasn’t a figurehead leader, he preached and visited inmates in over 600 prisons around the world. Colson once said,
But all at once I realized that it was not my success God had used to enable me to help those in this prison, or in hundreds of others just like it. My life of success was not what made this morning so glorious — all my achievements meant nothing in God’s economy. No, the real legacy of my life was my biggest failure — that I was an ex-convict. My greatest humiliation — being sent to prison — was the beginning of God’s greatest use of my life; He chose the one thing in which I could not glory for His glory. (Charles Colson)
Reorient. Reorienting is not like making New Year’s Resolutions, it’s not just simply deciding something needs to change in my life, it’s living life with its twists, turns, and tragedies and taking them all to God.
I’m reorienting. My life has changed, my routine has changed, but God is at work. I’m going to trust Him in the midst of the change and walk with Him knowing that He is at work. I was down in the dumps, but it didn’t help. Each new day I wake up thankful for a new beginning, a new opportunity, and resolved to inquire of the Lord about where He is leading me and how He wants to use me.
I believe I’m not the only person who is going through changes and I know that everyone here will go through changes. The question is what will you do? If you have never asked Jesus into your heart then none of this makes sense and it never will make sense. You are oriented to your surroundings based on your own perception and desires. I want to invite you this morning to surrender all of that to Jesus. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins, your waywardness, come into your life, and be your Lord and Savior.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 7, 2014
2 Chronicles 20:1-12