Allen Jackson - Tale of Two People - Part 2
It's an honor to be with you again. We're gonna explore today a bit of God's recruiting pattern through the story of scripture. The individuals not that he only selects, but that he invites into his service. I don't know about you, but I oftentimes feel ill equipped or unprepared or I'm too young or too old or too something, I disqualify myself. Well, I think with just a little bit of consideration of the people that God recruits, we'll understand that God takes our weaknesses and our imperfections as a canvas for his strength and his power and his glory to be demonstrated. Grab your Bible and a notepad and, most of all, open your heart to what God has for you.
Jesus is talking to his disciples, he's preparing them for his suffering. He's just about finished with his time under the sun, and he said, "You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel". The introduction to that is what captured my attention. Jesus said, "You are those who stood by me in my trials. You've walked with me".
Folks, name of Jesus is under pressure in the earth. Lots of dissenting opinions, lots of voices ready to say that you're archaic or outdated or you haven't kept up with the times, or you're not progressive enough. I mean, after all, you don't really believe the Bible is a holy book, do you? That it's authoritative? Let me show you the contradictions, some smart aleck will say. The name of Jesus is under pressure, so when I see him looking at his disciples and saying, "You're the ones that stood by me in my times of trials," I'm thinkin', Lord, I want to do that. I want to stand by you more than I want to be identified with anything else. How 'bout you?
I want to be identified with you, I want people to know I belong to you, I bear your label, I stand beneath your banner, that I'm all in. I'm not tryin' to carve out some portion of the narrative, I want to be identified with Jesus. I wanna be a part of the Jesus people. And listen to what Jesus said to them, he said, "There's a unique reward for you". To the disciples, he said, "You'll sit on thrones, judging the 12 tribes". You know we're not all going to receive the same rewards in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says, "Lay up treasure for yourself in heaven, where it can't be diminished".
You want to be making daily deposits in that account. But the next sentence is equally riveting to me, it's verse 31, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you've turned back, strengthen your brothers". And Simon said, "Lord, I'm ready to go with you to prison and to death". You gotta love Peter. I mean, Jesus is just about done, he's giving their last instructions, and he's still arguing with him. "Oh Lord, thanks for the prayers, but no backup in me. Your little internal analysis is a little skewed, Lord. I got this". "Simon, I've prayed for you. Satan has asked to sift you like wheat".
It's that next line that's the uncomfortable one. I'm not really shocked that Satan would target those that Jesus is recruiting and deploying, you shouldn't be shocked when you decided to serve the Lord that pressures come. Why would the adversary sends his pressures against those that are already serving him? And the more intently you decide to serve the Lord, it doesn't surprise me that the more intense the pressure is. If you exercise and you decide to exercise more intensely, how many of you know it becomes more uncomfortable? It's harder, your body complains more, and you get more sore than you did when you were just kinda goin' light. Makes perfect sense to me.
"Simon, I've prayed for you". He didn't say, "I rebuked the devil and told him to leave you alone". He said, "I pray that your faith wouldn't fail, and when you turn back..." Jesus knows he's going to turn away. There's such compassion in that. Jesus isn't mad at him. You know, I could've used a friend later tonight, Pete. You, gutless disciple, you. All of us have denied the Lord. Don't sit in that seat of the Pharisee that we started this with. "When you turn back, Peter". See, if we decide to serve the Lord, we're gonna have to do it with full knowledge and understanding that there'll be some pressures. There's rewards and there are challenges for pursuing God. Sometimes you face the challenges before you understand their rewards. In my life, I've typically had to be willing to walk through the challenges before I understood the benefit of the rewards.
Now, I want to spend a couple of minutes, if I can, see if we can identify something of God's recruiting pattern. I think it might help you, it helps me. The people God recruits to serve him, they're not the people I would expect, the selection criteria are not the ones I would have imagined. But God's the Creator of all things, he knows us when we're being knit together in our mother's womb. That is when life begins. He knows us before anybody else knows us, so he understands whom he recruits.
The person in the Bible that is held out to us as the father of our faith, Abram, he becomes Abraham. You ever thought about Abraham's great achievements? Well, he was the father of Isaac, but he was also the father of Ishmael, and that wasn't the best part of the story. I mean, Abraham's great contribution was he was patient. I mean, I wouldn't volunteer to be the pinnacle of patience if I were you. But it wasn't his great achievements, he's a bedouin, he's an animal herder, he's an animal herder who lives in tents, and yet he's held out in this book from the opening book to the concluding book as the epitome of a person of faith. God recruited him. Now, he was one tough bedouin. They took Lot, some kings who were scavenging, and Abraham gathered the people under his authority, and he traveled several days to the north and invaded the city at night and took his nephew back.
I wouldn't poke that bear very often. But it's not easy to see, he wasn't a great scholar, there's no tremendous physical attributes or intellect. He was willing to follow the Lord. If you will be, with determination, willing to follow the Lord, God will cause your life, both in time and for all eternity, to have great value. Doesn't matter who overlooks you, who knows your name, who didn't recruit you, who neglected you, who rejected you, if you will follow the Lord, he'll bring value to your life. David, many of you know David, you know David's pedigree? He has older brothers, and in that culture, that was not the pathway to greatness. The eldest would have inherited, because in an agricultural society, you can't afford for the farmland to be broken up amongst ten or twelve or fourteen kids. So, the eldest would inherit, and David's way down the list in that. They don't even invite him to the party when the prophet's coming to the house. He's out taking care of the sheep.
So, we know him principally as a sheep herder. I mean, Jesse's his father, but he's a shepherd. Now, he does tend to be a bit aggressive. I mean, his brothers will tell ya, don't poke David, he will bite you. I mean, his big break, it came in the form of having to confront a murderous giant. Isn't there, like a, just a course I could enroll in? Couldn't I watch some YouTube videos on how to be godly? Really, a murderous giant in front of the whole army, that's my opportunity? Look at 1 Samuel 17, "David said to the king, 'Your servant's been keeping his father's sheep.'" He's a shepherd, I told you that. "'And when a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep, I went after it, struck it, and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair.'"
Now, you read that like that's normal. I was out in the pasture the other day and a couple of deer went by, and there was a new fawn. And I stood there a minute, and not far behind it was a coyote. And I thought, oh mama, I hope you're paying attention. Let me tell you what I didn't do. I didn't put on grease paint and go sneaking through the weeds to get that coyote by the hair. And if I decided to do it harm, I would've done it long distance. Not David. That's not normal. He was just a touch aggressive. And God said, "Follow me," 'cause when David heard Goliath bellow his challenge, remember what he said? "He has defied the armies of the living God. And God helped me in those other places, he'll help me in this one".
Don't despise where you are. You maybe have a job that nobody wants. Shepherds were the lowest rung on the social establishment ladder. His brothers didn't want to do it, he's out there by himself, but he does it as unto the Lord, and he's in preparation for the time when the whole nation's gonna have eyes on him. God said, if I can trust him when nobody's looking, I can trust him when there's a lot of attention. You may think you're in a place where there's not a lot of privilege and nobody's watching and there doesn't seem to be an upside to it. If you will stand in that place and honor God in that place, he will bring the promotion to your life.
I've lived that out, that's not a theory to me. You don't have to look for a parade and run to the front of the parade and pretend you're the band leader. You serve the Lord where you are. If it seems to be obscurity, you honor the Lord in that place. It may be a parental assignment, it may be a family system assignment, it may be a job that other people overlook. There may be other people who compromise their character and compromise their integrity to try to get ahead of you. They won't do the hard work, they won't display the discipline, they won't put in the time and the energy and the effort, never mind. You honor the Lord, he will honor you. David became a man, the Bible says, after God's own heart. It says in the book of Acts, there's a commentary about David, God said, "David would do anything I ask him to do". May I suggest there's no greater compliment. If the Creator says he knows you'll do whatever he asks you to do, drop the mike and celebrate.
God recruits in the most unlikely places. He recruited Moses, you know something of Moses's story, Cecil B. DeMille helped us. He's an abandoned child. I mean, you can talk about his parents hid him, but ultimately they put him in a basket and set him free in the Nile River. Talk to me about their circumstances, it's bad parenting. Well, they had a lot at risk, yes they did, that's called parenting. We're not gonna find comforting voices because we've sacrificed our children. And I'm not talking just about abortion, we won't stand up and protect them from the ungodliness and the immorality and the wickedness and the lies that are being directed towards them. That's on us. It's not just our children, it's the children.
But in spite of that parenting system and the brokenness and the rejection that comes from that, Moses is an abandoned child, and on top of that he has a tendency toward some real violence. I mean, he got mad, just flat out killed somebody. So, maybe Moses is a little torqued, and God recruits him in a burning bush. "Moses, I need your help". "I don't want to help". "You didn't understand, Moses. I have an assignment for you". "I don't want an assignment". "Moses, put your hand in your robe". He pulls it out, and it has a terminal disease. Whoa, puts it back, and it's whole again. "Nice trick, I'm busy". "Throw your staff down, Moses". It becomes a snake, smart Moses runs. "Go back and get your staff". Oh, now Moses is beginning to bend. He goes back and picks up the snake, and it becomes a staff again. "Moses, that job". "I don't want to go". "Moses, my patience is wearing thin". "I don't talk plain, God". Really?
The God who gave you the ability to speak that could strike you mute like he did John the Baptist's father, you're gonna try to tell him you don't like public speaking? I hated public speaking. This one's personal. When I stood in front of people, my brain froze. I tried to explain that to the Lord, "I'm better in a laboratory". He didn't seem impressed. God finally got angry with Moses, "I will give you a helper". God recruited an angry, murderous, disinterested, he's the greatest example of leadership in the Bible until we meet Jesus. Nobody to compare with him. In the book of Hebrews in the New Testament, the author has to go way out of his way to convince his readers that Jesus actually was better than Moses, 'cause Moses is so revered.
God can make some great things out of the broken pieces of our lives. His family story wasn't good, his narrative of the childhood wasn't good. He was trained in all of the ungodly things of Egypt. I mean, everything about his life, you're checking the boxes, going, whoo, not this one, and God said, "Watch this". Gideon, you know Gideon's story? Gideon's a farmer, he has a very poor self image. He does not have the character of a leader. When God sends an angel to recruit him, he says, "Oh, wait a minute, you're confused. I don't even have much faith. If you're so much on our side, how come we're in such a hard place"? And the angel says, "Well, you're a mighty man of valor". He goes, "Dude, stop with the PR. I'm the weakest in my dad's house, and my dad's house is the weakest in the clan, and my clan is the weakest in the tribe, and I come from the smallest tribe. Stop with the valor nonsense, will you"?
That's who God recruited, and then he gave him, ultimately gave him a band of 300 to overcome an army numbered in the thousands, and they did it. God saw something in Gideon he couldn't see in himself. God sees something in you and me that we can't see in ourselves. Say, well, the people I wanted to affirm me didn't. Okay, God will. Well, there's been so many places I've been where they didn't recognize my talent or my ability. Okay, duly noted. How about turning our face to the Lord? We don't have to live with rejection. It doesn't have to have the ability to define our future unless we give it that power. Maybe you had a broken home or you've walked through a broken marriage. You've been mistreated in the marketplace.
One of the great evils that's being unleashed in our culture right now is to divide us based upon the the bad judgments and the mistakes and the sins of other people. Don't give away what God would give to you. Gideon becomes a powerful leader in the nation of Israel. Peter, Andrew, James, and John, they're fishermen. They've got no formal theological training, and they're gonna judge the tribes of Israel. Fishermen. They had strong backs and kind of weak brains. I mean, they're in the slow group. They feed 5000 people with a boy's lunch, and 3000 people with seven loaves and a few fish, and when Jesus says, "Beware the yeast of the Pharisees," an argument breaks out, "We don't have enough bread". And Jesus looks at them and says, "Are you really that slow"?
Just a clue, if Jesus looks at you and says, "Are you really that slow"? you're not paying attention. But he didn't throw them out of class, he said, "Let me explain one more time. Everybody listening"? Aren't you glad Jesus didn't throw us out of class? How many times has he looked at you and said, "Are you really that slow"? I know he's done that with me. Saul of Tarsus, he recruited him, it's the first formal theologian he's recruited, and he had to come back. Acts 1, he goes back to heaven, he comes back to get Saul. Saul's important enough, Jesus comes back to time, he steps in on the Damascus Road, puts his face in the dust, and says, "Just what do you think you're doing"?
A violent, angry, arrogant, self-righteous. And Paul says of himself later, it's in your notes, it's Philippians 3, he said, "If you think you have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more". And then he gives his resume, his curriculum vitae, he "says, My resume is better than yours". And if you wanna know how arrogant he was, he goes back to his eighth day. "When I was eight days old, I was being better than you were". Well, la dee da, but you need the punchline. At the end of that little passage, he said, "I consider all of this as rubbish, that I could gain Christ".
What are you trusting in? What are you so proud of? Your inheritance? Your physical strength? Your intellect? The degrees you've earned? The resources you've accumulated? Do you think God's gonna be impressed with my degrees? Oh, get the angels together, Allen's here. We can solve the problems now. No, the resources I can accumulate? Oh, thank God, now we can add the wing on. No. I consider them rubbish. You need the other part of it though, Acts 9, when he sends Ananias to pray for Paul that his sight can be restored, he said, "This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I'll show him what he will suffer for my name". That's a part of his recruitment.
Folks, we've misunderstood our faith. We thought it was about our convenience and upgrading the labels in our clothing and getting our kids in a better school or on a better team or a better set of opportunities. The greatest gift we can give to the generations following us is whatever training, whatever encouragement we can give them regarding the kingdom of God. I mean, their educations are important, their social skills are important, all of those things have value, but they're secondary to helping them understand the kingdom of God. God's called us in all of our brokenness. We gotta decide which of those people we want to be. More Cornelius then Pilate, I hope. More Peter and Andrew than that rich young man with such a bright future. Willingness to face the challenges that come with it. I actually brought you a prayer this morning, but I'd rather pray for you, if I may do that. Would you stand with me? I am over time again. We started out talking about a new anointing, you ready? Can we ask God for something that he would bring to our lives beyond us?
Father, I thank you for these men and women, I thank you for their lives and the hunger they have for you, the desire to honor you and serve you. Lord, they would make the effort to gather for worship or take their time to listen and learn. And, Lord, we ask you to do what we cannot, that you would give us understanding hearts and minds that can receive. May we be willing, Father, where we have been uncertain. Give us a boldness where we've been timid. Lord, I ask you to do in our lives that we can't do for ourselves, and that's enable us to live in such a way that it would open up your very best for us in time and for all eternity. Deliver us from evil. Forgive us, Lord, where we need forgiven, and give us the willingness and the humility to forgive those we need to forgive. Lord, through our lives and through our efforts, may your kingdom come and your will be done in our community and beyond in ways that we've never seen before. I pray that in the weeks ahead we will look back and recognize in this season you changed our trajectory, you put a new path before us, that we became your servants in a new way with a new boldness and a new authority and a new outcome. We praise you for it, and we thank you for what you will do in Jesus's name, amen, hallelujah.