09-07-2014 message by Pastor Rich Doebler
Great things happen when people come together! When we all pull in the same direction, when we join our efforts and our enthusiasm for God’s work, we can expect great things to happen!
Did you see this news report? TEAMWORK VIDEO. About a month ago, a man getting on a subway in Australia, accidently slipped between the platform and the train. His leg became so wedged in the gap that he couldn’t get out. After several attempts to free him failed, someone got everyone off the train. Then they got everyone to push against the side of the train. And the combined efforts moved the entire train enough so they could pull the man out!
Great things happen when people come together! One person—committed, determined, hard-working—can do a lot of good. But to do something big, like a music festival, you need dozens of people to come together.
That’s what I’m excited to see happening here in our church! Dozens of people coming together. Because we can do better when we work together—compared to when we work independently.
Even more, when we come together, each of us will grow as individuals. With the support and encouragement of others—when we share our gifts and talents and resources with each other—God unleashes new energy and life within a church.
Together we can do better; together we can be better.
This is a natural principle: one person can’t move a train, but dozens of people coming together to push in the same direction can!
But I really don’t want to talk about a natural principle. I want to talk about a supernatural principle.
If we can do more and can do better working together, what happens when we decide to work together with God?
Did you know you are called to work with God? He doesn’t just give you an assignment and then send you off on your own to do the best you can—“Report back when you’re finished…good luck.”
No! He goes with you. It’s his work. And he invites you to join him in his work.
Last week Jim Larson read from the NT letter to the Ephesians where it says: …lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Eph 4:1 (NLT)
You have been called! (The word is sometimes translated “invited.”) God invites calls you to come with him. (e.g. Josh 1:9) It’s like getting an invitation to an event or a party. Say that you receive a wedding invitation. You know when you go that the person who invited you is going to be there! The invitation says, “Please join us…” If you show up show up to a wedding and no one is there, you know there’s a problem. Or say that the bride or the groom is missing…something is wrong.
So when God calls you, he invites you to join him. You can be sure that when you answer the call, he is going to be there! In this journey of life, God invites us to walk with him, live with him, work with him.
1 Cor 3:9 (NIRV) …we work together with God; (NIV84) We are God’s fellow workers…
Jesus promised that we’d have the power and ability to do God’s work when the Holy Spirit comes to us—which suggests that we will not have the power and ability if we don’t have the Spirit.
Acts 1:8 (NIV) you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…and [then] you will be my witnesses…
You see, there are two sides to what we are doing as a church: There is God’s part and there is our part. Let me explain.
When God works in the world today, he usually chooses to work through people. As a result, church ministry includes both human and divine elements.
- There is the Spirit but there is also flesh (God and human);
- There is the supernatural but there is also the natural (God and human).
Think of it like this:God sends the fire—the supernatural power. We can’t send the fire. With human limitations, we cannot do supernatural things. We cannot make the fire…but we can fan the flame.
There was a young man just starting out in church work. He wasn’t very confident. In fact, he was a bit intimidated by the overwhelming task he was facing. Some of the people were hard to get along with. Hhe was trying to teach them, but they were arguing over words and doctrine. Timothy felt like they wouldn’t listen to him because he was too young and inexperienced. So his mentor, the apostle Paul, wrote two letters to him, to encourage him and to give him some advice. He said, Timothy, I’mremember reminded of your faith so…
2 Tim 1:6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (NIV84)
Or as the NLT puts it: …fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you… The same thing goes for us: We should “fan into flame” the spirital gift that God has imparted to us.
- God provides the fire—the supernatural.
- We can’t create the fire! But we can fan the flame.God’s part is fire; our part is fanning it.
When I say that, two questions come to mind: (1) Why? Why do we need to fan the flame? And (2) How? How can we fan the flame?
Why fan the flame? Because when God wants to do something special, he looks for people who are willing and ready to let him work in them. He wants to invite us to join him, not twist our arms and force us to come along. God looks for people who are looking for him.
2 Chron 16:9 …the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him…
Jer 29:13-14 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD…
Why fan the flame? Because even though God could do everything himself, but he doesn’t want to. He brings the fire, and even though it’s his supernatural work, he wants us to respond to him and join with him in the work.
God could do everything himself, but he doesn’t because he doesn’t want us to miss the amazing blessing of having seeing him work through us!
God doesn’t want us to sit back passively, watching from the sidelines. He doesn’t want us to miss the action—the blessing of being part of the great things he wants to do. He wants us to answer his call. To accept his invitation—to join in the fun and the excitement as he works in us and through us.
So that leads us to the second question: How can we fan the flame?
1. Wait—learn to listen; ask (don’t tell); hear from God. Wait for God to equip you and lead you. Wait for God to empower.
We often think of prayer as telling God what we need or what we want…as though somehow he wasn’t aware of what’s going on.
Of course, he invites us to bring our requests to him, he wants to hear our hearts. But prayer is much more than that. Prayer also means listening!
Henry Blackaby says: “…what God says in prayer is far more important than what you say.” (Experiencing God, 87) We need to wait, to listen for God. Waiting is a way to “fan the flame.”
2. Believe—because after you’ve waited and heard from God, genuine faith will always lead to action.
Faith is not passive. Faith is not something that happens to you. Faith stirs us to take action. So-called “faith” that doesn’t lead to action is not really faith. The Bible calls it “dead” faith: “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)
Just because there’s a body, doesn’t mean there is life. A few years ago Eugene Reilly finished his workshift sorting mail at the USPS distribution center. He got on the train for the 35-minute ride to his stop in Brooklyn. But he died on the way home—and no one noticed. For six hours he rode the train (or rather, his lifeless body rode the train), and people thought he was just sitting there.As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (Jas 2:26)
We need a living faith—to believe, to trust God, to hear from him and then take him at his word.
3. Test—because we don’t always get it right. We think we hear from God but we have human weaknesses and limitations.
Did you ever say something to someone only to discover later that they heard what they wanted to hear? It looked like they were listening, but their listening was selective.
I used to bribe my kids to get them up and out the door to make it to church on time. I’d say, “If you’re ready and in the car in five minutes, we’ll stop at Duncan Donuts on the way to church.” So what did they hear? We’ll stop at Duncan Donuts. And if I said, “Sorry, we’re running late. We can’t stop at Duncan Donuts because you didn’t get to the car on time,” I’d hear a lot of complaining: “But you promised!”
We can be the same way. We don’t always hear what we need to hear. Because we’re human, we don’t always get it right. So we need to test what we think we’ve heard from God. We can’t just say, “Well, God told me thus and so.” It’s possible that we missed a key part or misunderstood something.
We need to test what we think we’ve heard. We need to check:
• Is it scriptural?
• Will it honor God? (Or will people applaud me?)
• Have I checked my motives? (Some good things can become temptations.)
• Do others agree this is God’s will? Is there confirmation?
• Has God provided resources? Are the doors open?
4. Obey—step out in faith, trusting God will come through.
But obedience is not just a one-time decision. Obedience is an ongoing practice. It’s a lifestyle.
Our attitude should be that we will remain teachable through each step of the process.
Waiting, believing, testing, obeying—these are how to fan the flame of God’s fire. Neglect any of these, and the fire can go out. 1 Thess 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit. (ESV); Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; (NIV)
God brings the fire. Good things are happening. Will you join in? Will you fan the flame?