Life has been described as a series of calculated risks. We've been looking at how we can reach our full potential in Christ, how we can become all that He has planned for us. We've seen that we need a clean heart and a clear mind, that we need to use our gifts, body and time the right way and that we must surround ourselves with the right friends and influencers, but here's the final step.
We have to take a chance! We face a life full of risks, if we are honest. Today is the day you need to decide to step out in faith, and take a chance on God, because life is full of risks…
I get up in the morning, turn on the light. According to one study, every year in the US 500 people die electrocuted by light switches. I walk downstairs, 16,000 people die doing this every year. There's water we drink, air we breathe, and that's before we get on the road in the 2 tons of lethal projectile we call a car. Risk is all around us, folks, like it or not, so let's address this topic head on… I believe we must get ready to act and follow the Lord into God approved and God arranged risks!
Now for some folk like me, I just say bring it on. My risk profile is skewed way over the the “Let's have a crack at it” side. But for many, you are fearful of stepping out and taking a chance because of the risk that you will fall or be hurt in some way. This is often because it's happened before, right?
Well today we are going to pour faith into your life in a scale you have never experienced before!
Do you like to play it safe? Do you insist on guarantees? Are you afraid of change? In life, in relationships, in work, in ministry? Do you like to explore new possibilities?
If you truly are going to pursue your God-given potential, you are going to find yourself in situations and face opportunities that will require decisions and action. Some of those decisions and actions may appear risky to you, but to reach your full potential you must take those risks.
And unless Jesus comes in our lifetime, the only risk free truth is that you're going to die!
Does God want you to live a life that is totally risk free? No. He's more interested in your character than your comfort. But hey, you will want to make sure they are God given, God approved risks, not crazy, kamikaze, self destructive mistakes!
And the truth is that you have absolutely no way to comprehend all of the possibilities that an all-wise, all-knowing, infinite God sees for you. You cannot know with your finite mind and your limited perspective all that He knows.
So do you trust your opinions, or do you trust your Heavenly Father who has stated He wants the best for you, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.
A significant amount of risk is involved in trusting God in all things, in all relationships, in all choices, and in all decisions. Risk is part of the very nature of faith:
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Want to please your Father? Siting in your comfort zone doesn't please Him. Believe in Him, listen to Him, obey Him and trust Him for the results. If you want to bless God, take opportunities He places before you without fear and with faith.
Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered… there was no one there!
What you see as a risk from your perspective could be the very situation that God wants to use to strengthen your faith. What you think holds the potential for loss or danger, God may very well be using to strengthen your character. What you view as taking a chance, very possibly could be what God will use to carry you one giant step closer to reaching your full potential.
Consider the nature of a risk. It involves the possibility of suffering danger or a loss of some kind. We often associate taking risks with doing something that holds out the possibility of rejection or failure. There are elements of fear and disappointment that are part of every risk we take. The flip side of a risk is the possibility that we just might experience a great blessing or reward!
Is the prize worth the risk? Do you have and hold or is there nothing ventured, nothing gained? Do you like where your life is at right now? Are you totally satisfied? Do you risk the life you have for something greater, much greater, than could change lives around you and impact the world?
Question: if the prize is reaching your full potential, becoming everything you can possibly become with Jesus, how do we determine which opportunities to pursue in our quest to reach our full potential? We must never make decisions based on the degree of perceived risk. Rather, we are to make decisions solely on the basis of what God says. So the question isn't about the risk, it's about hearing and obeying the voice of God.
The truth is, choosing to do something solely on the basis of your limited understanding and ability leaves too much to chance. But pursuing God’s command—acting on the product of His unlimited wisdom and power—is not risky at all. If it is God’s idea, we cannot fail in our pursuit of it.
The challenge we face as opportunities come our way is to understand what God is doing and where He is leading. Taking God approved risks shouldn't have anything to do with the risk, and everything to do with the God approved part! The challenge is knowing for sure that you've heard Him right.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF AN OPPORTUNITY IS FROM GOD?
I don't know what opportunity you're facing. Might be a relationship, maybe a job or business, it might even be going to church, stepping out in a new way in ministry. If you are facing a challenge, opportunity or risk, how do you know what's God?
1. GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES UPWARDLY CHALLENGE WHO YOU ARE
When God places His opportunities before us, He always challenges our God given gifts and talents, and our character, and it is always in the upward direction. The Lord does not call us to do something that is the total opposite of who He made us to be. He also won't call us to a challenge that requires more than the abilities and propensities that He already has placed in us.
God’s opportunities might stretch us, might make us feel uncomfortable, but they are in keeping with who we are so that we might become even more than who we are.
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
2. GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES CALL US TO SOMETHING
God doesn't call us to quit something and kick back and slack off for the rest of our lives. Ok, He may not reveal all the details, but He always has a plan, a special plan for you.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Take Abram for example. God called Him out of Haran, his home, but God didn't leave him there. God led him to a new, strange, promised land, and gave him the promise for his future… that Abram will become a mighty nation under God!
He was 70 years old at the time. Trust me, you are never too old to not be used by God. And God leads you forward.
If God leads you to stop something, then He is preparing you for something else, probably something greater! God delights in leading those who have the faith and courage to follow! So sorry, He's not calling you to laziness He's leading you forth to greatness!
3. GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES ALWAYS BLESS OTHERS
I'm sorry, but God's opportunities aren't all about you! Yes you'll be blessed as you serve, but ultimately God’s opportunities invariably bless others, those around you. Success in an exam, a course, a business, a ministry or a relationship benefits you, but the aim is for you to bless others!
Think of Moses. He was free of the dangers or Egypt, and God challenged him to go back. No wonder he came up with a variety of excuses… I mean, who wants to walk back into the jaws of danger and defeat? He had nothing personally to gain, but God had a nation to be set free!
Ultimately he was blessed, leading the entire nation, but when Moses took the risk, it took real courage!
And what about Gideon, the reluctant leader, full of fear, threshing wheat in a wine press. When the angel greeted him with the words
“The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valour.”
Gideon felt completely unworthy. And every step of the way he showed his lack of faith, fleeces and all, but God saw something in him that Gideon couldn't see! And shaky Gideon saved the nation, with not 32,000 but only 300 men.
Look at Esther, the beautiful queen whom God challenged to step up and and save His people. She had benefits being queen, but
And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
If you act on what you believe is a challenge from God and suddenly are gripped with fear or doubt, you need to realise you're in good company! But then, put your eyes back on Jesus. Stop looking at the negative circumstances. Stop listening to the naysayer who doesn’t think you are capable or worthy of anything good from God. Today God is asking you to commit to trusting Him, and blessing others!
4. GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES ARE CONFIRMED BY HIS PRESENCE
When Peter stepped out of the boat onto the water, he took a few steps and began to sink. But who was there with him? Who reached out a hand and saved him from drowning? Jesus was there. God’s Spirit was there with Paul when he faced his accusers, His Spirit travelled with Moses, His Spirit led Joshua and Gideon and Esther, and the same Holy Spirit lives in you, and will be with you always!
Look at the greatest challenge we all face… the Great Commission. Taking the gospel to the world!
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
As a believer, the Lord is with you. He leads you into God approved challenges, He remains with you every step of the journey. He does not forsake you nor does He abandon you, even if you have fear, doubt, or hesitation. Stay close to God, listen and obey and you cannot fail!
5. GOD’S OPPORTUNITIES ARE ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY HOLY SPIRIT POWER
When God challenges you with an opportunity, He will always equip you for the task. So you need to learn how to hear and obey the Holy Spirit. That still small voice that nudges your conscience.
And here's the great thing… the action of the Holy Spirit is not just to give you a nice feeling, or a sense of where God is leading. The Holy Spirit is powerful! He's the creative force who can lead you into unbelievable blessing and incredible creativity beyond what you can even imagine!
Even this week the Holy Spirit has challenged me to a greater vision for this church. Yes we've grown. Yes there's a buzz in the air, but that's a fraction of what God has planned for us! I am not worthy of leading this church, and I do not have the power to lead you, but God has the power and through His Spirit I'm not going to stop trusting Him as your pastor. I am not good enough, I can do very little by myself, but who says I'm by myself? With His Spirit’s power in me, I can do all things.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
We believed God to buy this building against all odds, and we can now believe Him to expand it, and to reach our area for Christ. But I'm going beyond that… I'm praying for millions around the world to be influenced for Christ by our Church. Are you with me? Are you part of that! Is God asking you to step out and take a chance on Him?
SO WHY DON’T PEOPLE RESPOND TO GOD’S CHALLENGES?
You would think that, if we received Christ, then we would surely know Him and thereby trust Him with what He is calling us to do, right? But the majority of believers don't respond to God's challenges.
1. WE’RE MORE INTERESTED IN OUR OWN PURSUITS
Following Jesus means laying down our own personal agendas, desires and needs, and most of us struggle with that. We want what we want, and we often dress that up in religious garb.
I love the Lord, and I believe He demonstrates His power. He heals, He opens doors, He encourages and blesses us. But I am sick of hearing about people chasing the so called signs of the Spirit, wanting God to prove His presence here.
Listen, God is not a performing dog, and we shouldn't ask Him to conjure cheap tricks to prove He's here to you. The Bible says where 2 or 3 gather, and that's good enough for me! We need to put aside our own desires, agendas and yes, even needs, even the need to have something constantly proved to us, and ask what He commands us to do. We need to base our lives solidly on His Word alone,
An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”
I believe in a miracle working, all powerful God, but the obsession some folks have with so called manifestations is their own agenda. I’m begging for signs and wonders too, but I'm asking for souls to be saved, bodies healed, relationships restored and godly maturity! To paraphrase JFK, ask not what your God can do for you, ask what you can do for your God!
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Christians don't respond to God's challenges because they refuse to lay aside their own agenda!
2. WE WANT TO STAY IN CONTROL
Humans are control freaks… yes we are, admit it! We live to control things around us, and hate it when things even feel out of control, right? To grow our true potential in God, we need to take our hands off the wheel and let God steer! If you can trust Him for eternal life, why can't you trust Him for your daily needs instead of trying to control things…
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
But still we cling to the pathetic level of control we feel we have, instead of yielding to the all powerful, all knowing, ever present God of the Universe Who is on our side!
3. WE ARE AFRAID
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Are you fearful? Jesus says simply to not be! All the worried, fears and anxieties you struggle with are null and void in the hands of omnipotent God! All those fears… you need to let them go and get ready to step out and take a chance on a God who will never let you down and never let you go
4. WE LISTEN TO THE DEVIL’S LIES RATHER THAN GOD’S TRUTH
We all hear voices in our heads, and if we are to pursue the right choices God has for us, we need to discern God’s voice from both the devil and even our own, selfish, self serving voice.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
To listen to God’s Spirit effectively you have to know Him, who He is and what He sounds like. And those other voices, don't try and push them away, don't try and reason with them, take those things captive. Don't entertain them even for a minute!
5. WE EASILY RATIONALISE OUR DISOBEDIENCE
People are great rationalisers, and we are experts at excusing our behaviour, aren't we? When we fail to follow God into His ordained choices for us, we easily rationalise it away as something like, it's not my time, I'm not worth that or, in true Christian form, I just felt a check in my spirit about it!
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Disobedience, call it what it is, is sin. Rather than rationalising away why you can't or won't follow God, confess it and move on into the destiny He has for you!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Let me cut the the real reason we fail to follow the Lord into our God approved opportunities…
WE JUST DON’T KNOW HIM!
It's that simple, we don't know Him well enough. To know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to obey Him. If you truly know God, I mean intimately like He wants to know you, you will have no issue trusting Him in every situation. The more you know Him, the more you are comfortable trusting Him, even if you are cautious by nature.
But getting to know Him takes time, effort and commitment. Do the Bible reading plan. Spend time in prayer. Fall in love with the lover of your soul. If you put the effort into getting to know God, you'll hear His voice and grow in confidence to follow Him into your destiny.
So the way to meet this final hurdle in discovering you full potential in God is simply this… get to know God. Put aside your agenda, lay aside your fears, take your eyes off what surrounds you and place them squarely on Jesus. He is here now, He loves you, He's already proven that. He longs to draw you near, He longs for you to trust Him. And I guarantee you, if you commit to getting to know Him, He will begin to lead you into the destiny He has planned for you…
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
REMEMBER YOUR REAL PURPOSE
An airplane is meant to fly, a car is built to be driven, and clothes are designed to be worn. You have very little use for a plane that would not fly, a car that would not move, or clothes that can no longer be worn.
Why? Because their purpose is not being realised. It’s a great frustration to have things that are no longer useful. Do you think God might feel that way about us sometimes.
You were designed to know Him and make Him known, not simply to have a comfortable life. You were not created just to get married, have children and a successful career, then grow old and enjoy retirement. These are some of life’s benefits, its side dishes, but it's not its purpose.
The tragedy today is that we have taken life’s benefits and tried to make them our purpose. We’re trying to make the side dishes the main course. The result is that we often find the benefits very unsatisfactory. No wonder.
So if the purpose of life is not marriage, success, happiness, or any of that, what is it? What were we created for? Answer: we were created to know and worship God with an all-consuming passion. That’s it. That’s why Paul tells us to do everything to God’s glory.
TODAY GOD CHALLENGES YOU: TAKE A CHANCE ON ME
To take God approved risks you need 3 things… Courage, Obedience and you need to know God.
If you are going to do anything for God, you've got to trust Him. You trusted Him when you accepted His gracious gift of salvation, you trusted and believed that His blood shed on Calvary covers your sin, so why can't you trust Him with every part of your life? He's the same God, the same One who bled and died for you, the same one who bought you back from death, and the same One who has a plan for your life!
So what challenge, what opportunities is the Lord laying before you today? I believe God is speaking to people here, and I believe God is asking you to step out in faith. He might be asking you to try something again, He might be asking you to step up into a particular ministry. He might be asking you to just plant yourself here, rest and grow in Christ.
Total commitment, absolute surrender!
Whatever it is, I know it's scary, I know it's fearful, but if God is God you need to trust Him. And the only way to learn to trust Him is to know Him better and better. If you struggle trusting God, if you have fear right now about a decision you face, if you feel that God is distant, yet you long to know Him more, then this is your moment. I'm going to ask you to respond to Him. I'm even going to ask you to take a chance, take a risk, and come to the front of the meeting and let people who love you pray for you.