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2021 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Making Faith Personal

Andy Stanley - Making Faith Personal

Andy Stanley - Making Faith Personal

One of the things, one of the things that consistently kind of was sort of off-putting or unbalancing to Jesus' first century followers, especially his disciples, or his disciples in particular, was his oversized assumption about their capability and their abilities, that Jesus, this is so interesting, Jesus was consistently, and again, he had a short timeframe, so we had to kind of speed things up, and so, because of his short timeframe, he was consistently pushing the 12 apostles in particular into situations that they weren't ready for, that they weren't prepared for, and they were really in over their head, and as you read, it's a little bit funny at times, they find themselves kind of flailing around, trying to figure stuff out, and in some cases just flat out failing, just failing.

Like, Jesus says, "Go do this," or he puts them in a situation, and they just are like, "We just, we can't do this," and they fail. And this happens over and over and over. And to some extent, maybe they should've seen this coming. I doubt we would have either, because at the very beginning, when Jesus began to choose who would become his famous you know, 12 apostles, and you're familiar with this story perhaps, when he first called Peter, Andrew, James, and John, do you remember this? He calls Peter and James and John, and he says, "Gentlemen, I want you to come follow me," Jesus said, "and I'm gonna send you out to fish for people". Which is strange, right? Or maybe you heard it growin' up, "And I'm gonna make you fishers of men".

Now that's odd. But what's particularly odd about this was they had just spent all night fishing for fish, and had caught what? Nothing, right. They are fishermen who couldn't even catch fish, and Jesus says, "Don't worry about it. Follow me, and you're gonna catch people," right? And it's like, "We're havin' a hard time catching fish". He's like, "Don't worry about it, we're gonna figure this out". Then later, even though they were men of the sea, you know, they grew up around the sea, there's a couple of occasions where Jesus puts them in a boat without him, one in particular, and pushes them out into the sea and asks them to basically row across a few miles of the sea of Galilee, he's gonna meet them on the other side.

And even these men who grew up around the sea, they were not even able to row their boat to where Jesus asked them to row their boat. And then at the very end, I mean, this was so intimidating, he gets them together and he smiles and he's, you know, cast, doing this big vision cast, and he says, "Very truly I tell you," or, you know, the King James is "Verily, verily I tell you, Very truly I tell you, you guys, you guys are going to do the works that I have been doing. You've been watching me do all this amazing stuff. You guys are gonna do the various kinds of things I've been doing, and you're gonna do greater things than these". And they're thinking, "No, we're not. We couldn't even row, row, row our boat for six miles across the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. We're not gonna do greater things than you".

But Jesus was constantly pushing it, and part of it, again, he had a very short timeframe to set them up for what he ultimately wanted them to do. So he would create these artificial points of tension and these artificial environments to try to teach them a very, very important lesson. And it wasn't just a lesson for them, it was the lesson for me. I'll tell you a little bit about my lesson in a minute. And it was a lesson for anyone who claims to be or wants to be a follower of Jesus. Now, the best example of this is one that we're also familiar with, because all the gospel writers tell this story with a little bit different kind of detail, a little bit different emphasis, but one afternoon, again, if you grew up around church or in church, you've heard this story. Jesus was teaching all day.

Now the bad part about Jesus teaching all day is unfortunately, the gospel writers don't tell us what he was teaching, and when you read the teachings of Jesus, they're kind of short, but imagine sitting in an all day seminar with Jesus, you know, with 15 minute little breaks for coffee and bathroom breaks, and get back together. All day, he's teaching, and it's like, if only somebody had recorded an all day teaching session with Jesus, how amazing that would be. But anyway, they're out there all day. There's thousands of people and they'd gathered on this hillside, and the sun starts to, you know, it looks like it's gonna start to start setting and there, of course there's no restaurants and there's no, you know, there's no facilities, and so the apostles come to Jesus, and of course the apostles are worn out.

They've been sittin' out there in the sun, too, and they're hungry, but they don't wanna say, "Hey Jesus, can we take a break? We're hungry". So they kind of blame it on the crowd. They say, "Jesus, Jesus, we need to have a dinner break. Okay, these people, they've been out here all day, they're hungry. Send the crowds away, send the crowds away so they can go," 'cause they wanted to go, too, honestly, "send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food". And Jesus stares at the crowd, turns and smiles at the disciples, or his apostles, and he says, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat". To which I'm sure they thought, there he goes again. And we'll come back to that in just a minute.

If you've been tracking along with us, either online or in person, we're in Part Three of a series entitled "Faith Full: Fueling Your Faith In A World On Empty". We've discovered, and this is so important, and even if you're not a Christian or not a Jesus follower, or maybe you used to be and you gave up because of something crazy that a Christian said to you or a bad church experience, this is so important, that when you read the gospels, Jesus' agenda for his first century followers, and his 21st century followers, is that we would not simply be people who believe things, but we would be people with a very active, all in, gritty, daily, relational, you know, in the thick of things faith, that basically our faith would not simply be cerebral.

It wouldn't be just, we believe things about God or believe things about Jesus, that we would have an active, very activated faith. Which explains why Jesus' initial invitation, and why his invitation to me and his invitation to you was two words, "Follow me". Is that, "I want you to move and I want you to live and I want you to respond and I want you to react in a different direction". And Jesus never altered this invitation. Now, eventually the church did. Eventually the church pulled back from "Follow me" to simply "Believe in me". And yes, Jesus invited people to believe in him, but he never intended, and he never invited them to stop there. "Believe in me" was basically the threshold to "follow me".

In fact, he invited people to follow him and I love this, and especially if you're considering Christianity, Jesus invited people to follow him before he invited them to believe in him, because the follow part was the gritty part, the follow part was the active part, and the follow part is what he knew would ultimately build and confirm their belief in him. But believe, just believe is easy. It's much easier than follow, right? It's safer, it's less demanding. It doesn't require any change at all. You just make a decision in your head. But Jesus didn't invite people to simply believe true things. He invited people to live a life that reflected this ultimate and awesome and big and bold confidence in God, our Heavenly Father. He invited us to live a life that reflects our confidence and our trust in God his Father, because as we've said throughout this series, trust is the currency of a relationship.

And so Jesus invited his first century followers and he invites you and he invites me to follow him, to live a life that reflects confidence in, or faith in God. As it turns out, as you read the Old and New Testament, that God is most honored, God is most honored by living, not just in our heads, or in our hearts, by living active here-and-now faith. And when our active daily faith, I'm choosing to forgive, I'm choosing to follow up, I'm choosing to step in, I'm choosing to be compassionate, I'm choosing to be generous, I'm choosing to respond like Jesus are, when our active faith intersects with God's faithfulness on the backend, our faith grows.

But believing without doing, believing without doing results in a frail, failing, flailing, fragile faith. So people, I mean, Jesus didn't invite people to simply believe things. He invited people and he invites us to follow him. He invites us to ask this question, and a couple of weeks ago, somebody took the screenshot from the message and posted it and said this is the question they wanna wake up to everyday, and I was so encouraged, because this is the question we should wake up to everyday. We should wake up to the question, if you're a Jesus follower, "What would I do? What would I do? What would I, how would I live? How would I respond? How would I react? How would I respond to her? How I respond respond to them? What would I do? How would I live? What would I attempt? What would I initiate? What would I avoid? What would I do, if I was absolutely confident that God was actually with me"?

So in this series, we're asking, and hopefully answering the question, over the course of a lifetime, not just as adults, but over the course of a lifetime, what facilitates or what fuels the development of active, enduring faith? And you've met people like this. In fact, many of you are people like this. People who just are confident in God and they should, you know, it seems like they would react this way, but they react that way, and you ask 'em why and it's like, "Well, I'm a Christian, I'm a Jesus follower". They just live a different kind of life. And based on what Jesus taught, and based on our conversation with really hundreds and hundreds of people through the years, we've discovered there are at least five things or five essential ingredients to a growing, enduring, active faith, that there are five things that God uses consistently to blow up and to grow up our faith.

So last week we looked at the first of the five, we call it practical teaching, and we call it practical teaching because whenever somebody tells their faith story, if you were to tell your faith story if you've been a Jesus follower for awhile, whenever people tell their faith story, they always include, "And then I started going to this church, and for the first time in my life," or, "Then I began attending a Bible study and for the first time in my life," or, "Then I was involved in a campus ministry, when I was a university student and for the first time in my life, somebody gave me practical application. Somebody gave me handles. I'd always sort of believed in God, but I never understood how belief in God or belief in Jesus, was supposed to interface or actually show up in my day to day living. So my faith got bigger when, for the first time, somebody told me what to do and how to live out my faith. They taught me what to do with what I believe. They gave me handles and applications because," and the reason this grows our faith is when our active faith, not what's, we're just thinkin' about in our head, when our active faith intersects with God's faithfulness on the back end, our faith grows.

That is, when we step out and do what we think God wants us to do with no guarantee of how things are gonna turn out, and then after we step out and obey God, whatever that is, and then we experience God's faithfulness on the back end, you know what happens to your faith? It grows. It's like a muscle. If you don't exercise it, you have the muscle, but if you don't exercise it, it doesn't get bigger. And our exercised active faith grows our faith. But if you're never in an environment where somebody teaches you and shows you how to live out your faith, it's gonna be difficult to exercise that muscle.

So when we experience God's faithfulness on the back end of a decision to trust God, we actually experience God. In fact, some of you, there, in fact, I'm gonna tell you ina couple of minute, and I'm tryin' not to get emotional, but they're, for many of us who've followed Jesus for a long time, there are moments, there are segments, there are seasons, there are stories in our lives that when we think back and when we tell those stories, it's always emotional for us, because we just, we felt that internal nudge, we knew we needed to apologize, we needed to write that letter, we needed to volunteer, we needed to be more generous, we needed to whatever, and we didn't know how it was gonna turn out. We didn't have the time, we didn't have the money, you know, we didn't have the emotional bandwidth, but we did it anyway. And then on the back end, God just did something we couldn't anticipate, and we never forget those moments, and our confidence in God gets bigger. So practical teaching.

The second thing that grows up and blows up our faith is related to that and it's similar to that. We'd refer to it as personal ministry, personal ministry. When anybody tells their faith story and they answer the question, "What did," you know, "what was it along the way that grew up and blew up your faith"? People always talk about the first time they stepped out of their comfort zone to serve someone else or some someone else's in a way that they didn't feel prepared for, they didn't feel adequate, but they just knew they were supposed to do it. They stepped out and they served somebody in Jesus' name because they just felt that internal nudge. They, essentially, they tell the story of stepping into someone else's story or stepping into a group of people's story, a neighbor, maybe a nonprofit, a nonprofit that was doing something significant in the world and they had a burden for that, and they thought, "I wanna help, but what can I do"?

And then they got involved, and on the back end, they feel like God used them to make a difference. Stepping into a middle school or a high school group, "'Cause I remember what I was like in middle school, and if I'd had somebody do for me what I feel like God wants me to do for this group, but I'm intimidated, and middle-schoolers scare me in high schoolers scare me, but you know what? God, you know, if you can use me, I'm in," and on the backend, you know, relationships were formed, relationships with parents. I mean, everybody who's followed Jesus for any amount of time has felt that that nudge to step into the game and to embrace some sort of personal ministry.

Some of you remember the first time you were challenged to go on what we call a global(x) trip for, if you're from different kind of, different churches, a mission trip, and you've found yourself signing up for something, then you had to update your passport and you had to get a shot, and you know, it's like, and you're thinkin' to yourself, "What am I doing? Am I crazy? I mean, I'm not a missionary," you know? And then on the back end, because of who you met, and because of what you did, something happened on the inside of you, and whenever anybody tells their story, or when you tell your story, here are some of the things that we hear, right?

"I was so nervous," right? "I was in over my head". You know, "They gave me this lesson and I sat down with these kids and I thought, I don't even know the Bible all that well myself. I felt inadequate and unqualified. But," this is part of the story, "But I knew, I knew, I didn't know what was going to happen, I didn't know how it was gonna turn out. I knew I didn't have enough time. I knew I didn't have the resources, I, there was no guarantee, but I just, I don't know, I just knew this was what God was nudging me to do, and I wanted to back out and I wondered, why did I sign up for this? And I thought, everybody here's smarter than me and everybody here knows the answers. What if I say it wrong"? But when people tell their story, when you tell your story, when I tell my story, what do we say? We say, "But I just, I went ahead anyway".

And the reason it's part of our story isn't because we're great. The reason it's part of our story is because on the other side of that decision, we experienced God's faithfulness and God's provision, and we, you know, again, the emotional part is that God used you and God used me in someone else's life. Pushing through, pushing through our inadequacy, pushing through our inadequacy in order to say yes to God for the benefit of other people, it just grows our faith. It grows enduring, strong, you know, gonna get through the next one as well, faith. When we push through our inadequacy, "I don't have time, I'm scared, I don't have the resources, I'm too old, I'm too young, I'm not educated enough," whatever it is, "but I feel like God's nudging me," when we push through our inadequacy, on the other side of that, that's when we experience God's faithfulness and our faith gets bigger.

In fact, some of you, as I'm saying this, you're thinking, "Oh my goodness, did somebody send him an email"? Because you've been wrestling with this. You've been feeling a nudge to start something or do something, maybe in the community, maybe in the city, maybe in a different city, maybe a different part of the world, maybe in your local church, but you've been kind of feeling that nudge, and you know, you believe it might be from God, but it's gonna require something of you, and you're resisting. Did you know we all resist? That's not a lack of faith. You know what it is? It's a test of your faith, it's a test of my faith. "God, I don't know how it's gonna work out, I don't know that I'm adequate, but if this of you, I'm gonna do what I know how to do, I'm gonna trust you to do what only you can do". Because that nudge won't cease. It won't desist. And again, you have no idea.

Here's the other big thing about this, right? You have no idea what hangs in the balance of your decision if you say yes or no. You have no idea what hangs in the balance in terms of what's gonna happen. But here is something I know for sure hangs in balance, the quality and the strength of your faith, the quality and the strength of your faith. Because saying yes to God is stepping to serve other people, it's one of the five things God always uses to grow our faith. If you don't believe me, just ask the disciples. So let me get back to the story. "Lord, Lord, Lord, they're hungry. We're hungry, but don't tell him that. Lord, send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food". Jesus looks at them and says, "They do not to go away. You give them something to eat".

Now, a little more context for the story, 'cause it's, I think it's interesting. Right before this incident, here's what had happened. Herod Antipas, not Herod the Great who killed all the babies in Bethlehem, but his son, Herod Antipas, was the governor of the northern part of what we would call modern Israel, or Galilee back then. Northern, he was the governor, and he was not a fan of John the Baptist, because John the Baptist was not a fan of Herod Antipas, because Herod Antipas had married his brother, Philip's wife, Herodias. So Herod married Herodias after she divorced Herod's brother. Now, this was a big no-no. It's kind of odd now, but it was like against the law back then, against Jewish law. So John the Baptist, who was not afraid to say whatever came to mind, would talk in the streets about Herod Antipas and how he had married his brother's wife.

So Herodias, the wife of Philip, who divorced Phillip in order to marry Herod Antipas, she was not a fan of John the Baptist either, so she talked her husband into arresting John the Baptist, which was a big problem because people in that part of the world thought John the Baptist was a prophet. They were, they knew he was a prophet. We think he might've been a relative of Jesus. We knew their, we know that their mothers were really good friends. So you got this situation, and then finally Herod, Herodias, Herod, Antipas' new wife after divorcing Philip, are you following this? I know, it's, it should be, I know. But we're accustomed to these things. It happened back then as well.

Anyway, so Herodias talks her daughter, her teenage daughter, into going in before Herod Antipas, her husband and his buddies, and doing a very, she went in and danced before them. We'll just leave it at that. So then Herod and buddies, they are all, they're so worked up after this very sensual dance. Herod's drunk, and he says, "You know, that was so amazing. I'll get, just name something. Name your price. That was so amazing. I'll give you whatever you ask for," thinking she's gonna want some cash or a car. And she leaves the room, and all the guys are like, "Where'd she go"? And she goes to see her mother and says, "Okay, what do you want"? And her wicked mother, Herodias says, "Tell your stepfather, my new husband, that I want John the Baptist's head on a meat platter".

See, this is why you should read the Bible, okay? You didn't even know this part was in there, right. "I want John the Baptist's head on a meat platter". So she goes back in, they're all just carousing and they're all drunk. And she said, "he's like, you know, what do you want"? And she says, "I want John the Baptist's head on a meat platter". Now he's stuck because he said this in front of all his buddies. So sure enough, he sends his executioner down to the dungeon, they chop John the Baptist's head off and they literally put it on a meat platter and give it to Herodias, 'cause that's what she wanted.

Now she's done with John The Baptist. Well, word of all this gets to bat to Jesus. I mean, this is terrible, right? I mean, there's so much grief. Imagine the disciples. I mean, John The Baptist was the, "Ladies and gentlemen, may I please present to you," you know, "the Lamb of God that comes today". I mean, he was the forerunner of Jesus, and now he's dead. And Jesus did nothing to stop it. Now, I know from time to time we're all disappointed with God. We just are, and you just need to know, this was not, that's not new with us in this generation. I mean, imagine the disciples. They'd seen Jesus turned water into wine. I mean, that wasn't even important, right? That's fun, but it wasn't important. They'd seen Jesus heal strangers, and he did nothing, he didn't even lift a finger to help his own second or first cousin or friend or forerunner, John the Baptist? This just made no sense at all.

So you should be encouraged. Sometimes God's lack of response or not responding the way that we don't want, that we want God to respond, doesn't make any sense to us. Jesus' responses in the first century often didn't make sense either. Back to the story. So, "When Jesus heard what had happened to John the Baptist, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place". Okay, this is, I just have to say it. Jesus finds out that John the Baptist has been executed and he goes to the lake. That's what he did. He went, in fact, he went as far away from the region that, he went to the farthest northern part of Galilee. "He went to the lake to a solitary place". He's upset, he's tired, we find out. He's been doin' all of this ministry. He wanted to be alone, reflect, and recuperate, and a boat was the only way to escape, because when there are crowds and there are no cars, the only way to get away from the crowd is you get in a boat.

This is one of the reasons Jesus spent so much time around the sea of Galilee. It's like, "Guys, I'm tired. Let's get in the boat and go". "So hearing of this," the story continues, "hearing of this," that Jesus jumped in a boat and headed across part of the sea, "the crowds followed him on foot". So they just go around the edge, there he is, he's still in sight, he's still in sight, 'cause they just, they can't get enough of Jesus. "And when Jesus landed, he saw the large crowd". They were there waitin' on him. I love this. And he was so upset, "he had compassion on them and he healed their sick". And now the story, "And as evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, 'This is a remote place and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away. I thought we came for a vacation anyway, and send them, this is, send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food. Send the crowds away so that they can buy themselves some food.'"

So the disciples asked Jesus to do something, and then Jesus turns to the disciples and he asks them to do something. "No, you give them, you give them something to eat". Jesus invites them to be a part of the solution to the problem. But what he asked them to do was impossible. There's thousands of people right? Now, John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, he also tells us this same story. John said, this is kind of cool, John said that Jesus said this to test them. In other words, he knew it was impossible. He knew they were incapable. He knew they did not have what it took to do what he was asking them to do, that it was a test.

And John also tells us, because looking back, John got all the scoop, 'cause he was there for this, and when he talked to Jesus afterwards, Jesus told John, "Look, I knew what I gonna do the whole time. It was a test for you guys. I had a very short period of time. I'm trying to teach you to trust me. I'm trying to teach you to step into areas where you're not adequate and trust me to do what only I can do. So when I, you said, 'Hey, send the people away so they can get something to eat, I thought, hey, this is a great opportunity. You give them something to eat.'"

Andrew, one of the apostles who I was named after, just thought I'd mention that, Andrew speaks up. He says, "Well, Jesus, there is a kid in the audience here, and apparently he overheard our conversation, and he has offered us his lunch. But I've looked at his lunch and all we have in his lunch box, all we have here are five loaves of bread and two fishes. Five loaves of bread and two fishes". Now, if you haven't been paying attention, pay attention. I love what Jesus says next. Five loaves of bread, two fishes for thousands of people, I love what Jesus says next. This, are you looking? This is how big problems are solved. This is how macro community-wide, city-wide, nationwide problems are addressed, and this is an invitation to all of us. And Jesus smiles and he says, "Bring them here to me. I know it's one kid with one lunch. Bring them here to me".

And there I stand, and there you stand, with our loaves and our fish. Some of you you have more loaves than fish, some of you have more fish than loaves. We don't all have the same resources, we don't all have the same capability, but we all got a little something. And every single Jesus follower is invited. "Bring them here to me. You want me to do something? I want you to participate. You want me to do something big? You want me to do something big for the next generation? You want me to do something big in the community? You want me to do something big in a nation? You want me to, you've been prayin' for change? I want you to participate. So you bring me what you got". Remember sometimes I ask you what breaks your heart? Hey, what breaks your heart? We all kinda know what breaks our heart. What breaks your heart? Jesus says, "Bring me what you got". "Well, God, I know what breaks my heart is such a big issue". "Just bring me what you got". Is it the faith of the next generation? "Bring me what you got".

Is it your neighbor or your neighborhood? "Bring me what you got". Is it university students? "Bring me what you got". Is it the people at work? "Bring me what you got". So there they stand. There are thousands of people kind of milling around, sun's startin' to go down. There they stand starin' at each other, and Andrew just, you know, "All right, Jesus, there it is. This should be interesting". But everyday with Jesus, if you're one of these guys, it's interesting, right? "So Jesus directed to people," you know the story, "to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven". I love this. This is like when he's standing outside of Lazarus' tomb and he prays that cool prayer before he raises Lazarus from the dead. "Dear Heavenly Father, you know, what's about to happen, but I just want them to know that we're connected, So, okay, here we go". Boom, Lazarus.

That's what this prayer is all about. "Heavenly Father, you know what's about to happen. I just want everybody to hear to know that it's not me, it's you, through me, so here we go". "And he said, looking up to heaven, he gave thanks, and he broke the loaves, and then he gave them to the disciples". Now what? And do you know what they did? They did what they knew how to do, and they trusted that Jesus knew what he was up to. That's it. They did what they knew how to do, and they trusted that somehow Jesus was going to come through. They literally, we use this phrase out of context all the time, it drives me crazy. We don't, but I hear it all the time out of context. This is literally what they did. They walked by faith. They didn't come up with something for God to do and say, "God, I'm just gonna trust you". No, no, this was not their idea. Walking by faith isn't coming up with stuff to do and then imposing on God. Walking by faith is when you feel the nudge to do something you know you can't do and you step into it anyway. They literally walked into the crowd hoping they weren't gonna look like total fools.

"And the disciples gave them," you know the story, "and the disciples gave them, he gave him the disciples and the disciples gave them to the people". And their active, activated faith, intersected with God's faithfulness, and something remarkable happened. They were all, they all ate, "and they all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up 12 baskets of broken pieces that were leftover".

Now, this whole concept is so personal for me, and I so want it to be personal for you. It's so personal for me when I talk about it in this room, because 25 and a half years ago, a group of us felt the nudge to start a different kind of church that we were told wouldn't work in the southeast, because people had tried it and it's not gonna work, there's too many churches in the southeast as it is. But we wanted to create a church that unchurched people would actually attend and love to attend and bring their friends. We wanted to create a church so we got rid of all the stuff that got in the way of people just turning their hearts toward God. And we left our jobs and we, you know, we just, the problem was we couldn't not do it because the nudge was so strong, and every time I see a baptism, every time I walk into this, every time I had to drive over and see the building, or see what else God has done through us all over the city and different parts of the world, it is so humbling to me, and I just, I know, and you look at me and it's like, oh, but it's successful and it's big. But once upon a time, I'm tellin' you, once upon a time, it was this big. "Just bring them here to me".

10 years ago when Sandra and I felt the nudge become foster parents, woo, I'm like, oh, there is no way. I mean, I'm too busy, I du du, du du du du du du, du du du du, and it's like it just doesn't go away, it doesn't go away. You gotta become foster parents. Like, we don't have what it takes. Then we went through the training and we really knew we didn't have what it takes, right? You know what was in our lunch box? Empty bedrooms and a little bit of financial margin. "Just bring it here to me". And what's happened, sorry, and what's happened in my heart and what's happened to my faith, I'm telling ya. Now Andy, you got big faith, you're the preacher. No, I'm just a human, okay. What has happened in our heart, in our life, in our faith, because we, all right, here we go. But this is the way of God. This is why I say, this is how the world changes. This is how communities change. And on the other side of it, this is how your faith just gets bigger.

So I want you to say something with me, and I'm, again, if you're a Jesus follower, I make no apology for this. If you're not a Jesus follower where you feel like I'm manipulating you, I apologize. I really don't wanna do that. But if you're a Jesus follower, I just want you to repeat this after me. Would you say this with me? All together, ready? "I'll do what I can do". Come on, just come on, be bold. And, second part, and trust God to do what only he can do. Let's all just say that together, ready? "I'll do what I can do and trust God to do what only he can do". That's the walk of faith, and that's the walk that builds your faith, and as long as it's just something you believe, you're gonna have a little itty-bitty frail muscle, and when you need it, it's not gonna be there for you.

Now here's the cool part. I gotta finish this story real quick. Do you know what Jesus does after this? Imagine this moment, okay. The apostles are collecting more fish and bread, or more bread than they actually gave out to begin with. I mean, they are laughing, they are giggling. I mean, this is like, what just happened? And I think Jesus is smiling and the people are eating and they're beginning to think, hey, we got it going on. Let's go do this some more. And Matthew, who was there, says, I love this, the next word, immediately, before it goes to their head, before they think, wow, look at us and go, come on, Matthew says immediately, immediately Jesus says, "Let's go". They're like, "Yeah, but this is of". "Nuh-uh, let's go". Takes them down to the lake, puts them in a boat, pushes it off and says "Row, row, row the boat".

And once again, they can't make it to the other side. And the text tells us that he asked them to do this, hoping they would connect the dots between the lesson of the loaves, and the journey across the lake, because he had a compressed timeframe to teach these men. "Trust me, trust me, do what you can do and trust me to do what you can't do. This is the way of the kingdom of God, and this is the way that the world changed". In fact, in that particular story, the only person that connected the dots was Peter, but that's a story for another day. And then, imagine this, at the very end Jesus stands on another hillside and now he's just got the apostles and a few extra folks and about 20 or 30 women who had supported and followed him from Galilee, and Jesus hands off the entire enterprise to this same group of people. He says, "Okay, I've done all I can do, I've taught you all I can talk. Remember the loaves, remember the lake, remember the lessons. Now I want you to go and I want you to make disciples of all nations".

They're thinkin', wait, wait, wait. Most of us haven't traveled any, you know, we've been about 50 miles away from home. You want us to go make disciples or Jesus followers of all nations? That's impossible. We got it. We get it. We're just gonna bring you what we got. "Make disciples of all nations"? We're outlaws and fugitives. "Make disciples of all nations"? I'll tell you what, Jesus. We'll do what we can do, and we'll trust you and your Heavenly Father to do what only you can do.

And ladies and gentlemen, 2,000 years later, here we are. This is the place that every Jesus follower finds themselves in at some point, and when you hesitate, when you say no, when you decide, I'm just gonna keep it here and not out there, your faith atrophies in it, it's weak and it's frail, and it's not there for you when you need it, and it's not there for somebody else when they need it. But that nudge, that nudge to serve, that nudge the step in, that nudge to step out, that nudge to invite, that nudge to lead, whatever it might be, that is your opportunity to experience God in a way you're just not gonna experience from the safety of, "Hey, I don't have what it takes. Somebody else is gonna have to do that".

When it comes, when it comes, and when you feel drawn and nudged, you don't know what's gonna happen on the other side. You'll never know everything that hangs in the balance of your decision to step out or not step out. But the one thing you know for certain hangs in the balance is your faith, and the practical application of your faith and the strength of your faith and the endurance of your faith, and perhaps the maturity of somebody else's faith as well. Because personal ministry, here's what it does, two things. It positions us to experience God's power in our weakness, which is what God does. Personal ministry positions us to experience God's faithfulness in response to our little itty-bitty, I'll give you what I got acts of faith.

So if you want endearing, go the distance faith, don't just believe things. You gotta say yes to that nudge. You gotta step out before you're ready, because you'll never be ready, before you know what's going to happen, because you can't know what's gonna happen other than your faith is going to get bigger. What we do know is this. I'm gonna bring you what I got is one of the five things that God uses consistently to grow up and blow up our faith. And the folks that said, "Yes, I'll give you what I got," those are the people that change the world. And here's the warning. The people that say, "No," we don't know their names. In fact, perhaps you know somebody who gave in to that nudge and it changed your world. In fact, you're here, you're a believer, you're doing things you never thought you would do before because somebody knocked on your door, invited you to something, or asked you to participate in something, and they were scared to death.

In fact, they told you that later on, it's like, "I almost didn't ask you". And you're like, "I'm so glad you gave in to that nudge," because it so impacted your world. And here's the thing, and I'm done. Somewhere in the world there is someone whose life, whose child, whose marriage, who's grandchild, whose faith will be changed once you step up and make available to God what's in your lunchbox. Again, there's a story that is yet to be told, and your Heavenly Father is sayin' "Just bring me what you got. You do what only you can do, and I'll do what only I can do, and you'll be amazed at what we can do together. You give them, you give them, something to eat". And we will pick it up right there next time in Part Four of "Faith Full".
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