The Chance of a Lifetime ~Based on a sermon by Pastor Kevin Dudley

May 29, 2013

May 26, 2013

Judges 13:8-21

On this past Sunday, Pastor Kevin Dudley presented a concept that should be common in Christianity yet it totally blew my mind and really gave me a healthy conviction about the things I choose for my life. Pastor Dudley talked about the fact that God wishes to reside in us…literally. That He desires to dwell in our heart and be a natural part of who we are. Think about that…God not only wants us to seek Him in prayer, He not only wants to visit with us in our quiet moments with Him, but He ultimately desires to reside in us. It truly is THE chance of a lifetime. The question is are we ready?  So often, we have cluttered our lives with so many things that God never intended us to waste His time on to begin with; money, professional ambition, dead relationships…the list could go on forever. I remember when I was young my Gammie used to fuss at me for leaving for school in the morning without making my bed and with clothes on the floor. She would say, “You never know when someone might stop by. If your room is clean you don’t have to worry about needing to turn them away.”  Today I confess that my heart is cluttered with junk but I want to prepare myself for an encounter with God. I must admit that it is intimidating because we know that when we encounter God something big is about to happen and a major change is going to take place. As I researched and prepared to write this post, I wondered why change can be so intimidating and was lead to read an article in the Harvard Business Review that listed the top 10 reasons people resist change, here are a few of my favorites:  excess uncertainty, more work and loss of control. Imagine that?

It was uncanny to me how those three fears perfectly aligned with Pastor’s teaching on what we experience when we have a true encounter with God. First, Pastor Dudley said that during a true encounter with God, we run the risk of exposing what we don’t know (excess uncertainty). In the selected reading, Judges 13:8-21, we meet an ordinary couple who, just like us, was connected to God’s bigger picture. They were a part of something that had nothing to do with them specifically, but with the Kingdom of God. And they were up for the challenge.  After his wife had been visited by the Angel of God and told that she would bear a son who would belong to God and be set apart, her husband went to the Lord in prayer and asked that He teach them how to bring up the boy that was to be born (vs. 8). Although the angel had already given instruction to his wife, Manoah wasn’t too proud to admit that he need further instruction and clarification; that he didn’t know how to bring up a child. He was humble and admitted that he needed help. God is attracted to our desire to want to know and I imagine is unimpressed by those who believe that they have life figured out.  We see in the reading that God responds to Manoah’s vulnerability and revisits him and his wife to give them comfort and assurance in what He had already instructed.  We have to open ourselves up to God and be vulnerable to His voice and guidance –this keeps Him active in our lives and connected to His will for us. If we knew it all, we wouldn’t need Him.  We have to be willing to confess inexperience and decrease so that God may increase. We have to be open to instruction and enlightenment from the Lord so that we may experience true transformation. When we truly trust God, we can be just as confident in what we don’t know as we are in what we do know because we trust Him for the answers.

As we continue reading the selection we see that an encounter with God will also raise the level of our responsibility (more work).  In an effort to thank the angel of God, and as was a customary display of hospitality, Manoah offered that the visitor stay for dinner. But God required more of Manoah than just the customary “thank you.” The angel of the Lord turns down Manoah’s dinner invitation and one ups him by instructing him to use the goat he planned to cook as a burnt offering (vs. 16). We should want to respond to God as though He is God and get out of the habit of treating Him like He’s just “any old body”. I was having a discussion with a person very close to me about tithing. This person shared that they believed that God intends for us to tithe with what we have “leftover” and that they believed that God would understand if after we have “taken care of our responsibilities” we didn’t have much to give Him. Now this came from a person I am very close to and whom I love very much so I was confused to know that this is how little they thought of God. I don’t want to give God left over offerings because I don’t want God to give me “leftover” blessings. I don’t want to leave God with “not much” because I want more of Him. Tithing is an area I can admit I wrestle with because deep inside, this ideology is what I’ve been taught most of my life, but I can now see how pathetic is it to limit what I give to God and still expect Him to bless me with abundance. I have to accept an increased responsibility and offer more to show God what I think of Him. This goes beyond monetary offerings. So often we save the work to be done for someone else; we occupy our weekends and evenings with the things of life those pleases us and give little time to serving God’s people.  The concept of “community service” is saved for high school and college students who need to add something to their resume. We are afraid of increasing our responsibility to God but want Him to continue to bless us. God is calling us to do more work so that we may truly encounter Him and undergo our transformation. We get comfortable dealing with God on a basic level, but when we respond to His grace and elevate our responsibility God will elevate His response and show His glory in ways we could never have expected.

 (vs. 20 NIV).

Finally, God shared through this passage that when we encounter Him, He will move your blessing beyond the boundaries (loss of control).In verse 17, Manoah asks the angel of the Lord for his name but he responds that it was beyond his understanding. At this time, a person’s name was directly connected to their being. By naming something we are trying to find a way to control and define that thing. Manoah wanted to define God. He wanted to put a label on Him to state His worth as it related to that one instance by being able to call him merely a prophet, but God is so much more than that. What God does is who God is, but we put His abilities and power in a box and so we limit what He can do in our lives. To some, God is Companion, to other’s He’s Opportunity, to other’s He’s Survival. But when we give God these limited roles in the story of our life, we miss Him when he shows up in others scenes and walk right by. We attempt to control and understand that which is beyond our understanding. I was praying the other night and asked God for insight in one specific area of my life and He responded by asking me why I wanted to know. Of course I tried to give reasons that made perfect sense to me but He then said, if you can trust me with other areas of your life, why can’t you trust me with this? I realized then that I had limited God to being only capable of changing certain things in my life and only believed in Him for specific things, and not all things. He is more and capable of more than I have given Him credit. At that moment I had to sacrifice control over something I had gotten completely wrapped up in. We must believe God for the impossible and be willing to give up control, because what He has for us goes beyond the boundaries of our imagination and is more than we can comprehend.

Pastor shared that there are three ways to encounter God: communication, our daily prayer and study of His word, visitation, when God shows up and makes His presence known, and ultimately habitation, God coming into our lives and spending time with us; being with us and taking up residency in our hearts. When we encounter God, we will run the risk of exposing what we don’t know which shows our humility and openness to learning what God needs to teach us, we raise the level of our responsibility by responding to God’s grace according to who He is and not our convenience, and we allow God to move our blessing beyond our boundaries, letting go of the limitations we place on His abilities. I watched a movie Monday night called, The Encounter. The acting was awful but the message was so pure. God will come to us, He longs to come to us and be a part of who we are. He created us for great things and it is not an inconvenience for Him to have to show up to us right where we are; all we have to do, the only thing He requires is that we love Him and believe in Him and the purpose He has placed on our lives. He will come to where you are; He will give you the desires of your heart –ask and believe. 



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