This morning, we come together for the first Sunday of the new year. We face the upcoming year with hope that our best days are ahead of us. No matter what has happened in our past, God holds our future. As we launch this new year and prepare for the changes ahead for New Hope that are being revealed next week, we turn to God’s word and learn what happens “When God Leads.”
Perhaps the best starting point is for us to turn to what God reminds us about our own tiny boxes of our thoughts and our ways. Here, we find wisdom if we figure out how to apply it in our own lives. Wisdom that begins with surrendering ourselves and trusting the Lord with all that we are.
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
God then goes on to remind us that His word always achieve the purpose which it was sent out to do and that those who trust in Him will go forth in joy and peace. If we call on the Lord and trust in Him, He will lead us. When God leads, He doesn’t necessarily act as we would expect or think that He would. However, if we follow His lead, His purposes are achieved and things always work together for our good as well.
Beyond God’s willingness to pour out His mercy and grace on us to freely pardon all of our sin and to transform us into new creations is His desire to do the same for others. Through the Holy Spirit, God enables us to see others not only as they are, but also as He created them to be. He enables us to see others as He once saw us. This ability is made possible through the gift of prophecy.
God has always used prophecy to warn mankind about the path that they are on and to call out their potential. He uses prophecy as a way of beckoning mankind into His plans and purposes. In the Old Testament, there were individuals raised up as prophets such as Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Miriam, and Deborah. Though the office of prophet is still a part of the five-fold ministry called out in Ephesians 4, God has chosen to pour out His Spirit on all believers and enable us all to prophecy.
Paul wrote to the church in Corinth:
1 Corinthians 14:1-5
1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
As we follow God’s lead, not only do we begin to see our potential, but we are given the divine opportunity to see God’s potential in others as well. We’re given the awesome choice to strengthen, encourage, and comfort people because we’re able to see something in them that no one else sees. As we read from cover to cover of the Bible, we find that God intentionally chose people that no one else would have considered for the greatest acts of history. In fact, He’s still doing it today!
In fact, there was one instance where God had to remind one of His prophets about this reality to keep him from going from one mistake to yet another. In the midst of his mourning over the death of the first human king of Israel, Samuel was sent to Bethlehem was anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the next king.
1 Samuel 16:6-7
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
In fact, God hadn’t chose Eliab or any of the other seven sons of Jesse. Instead, God had chosen the one that even his own father had not thought possible. God had chosen young David who was out tending the sheep. David was anointed in front of his brothers and the Holy Spirit came upon him in power from that day on.
We would be wise to learn from God’s warning to Samuel. Don’t look at the things that people look at. None of us like it when people are quick to judge us without getting to know our hearts, but we are all quick to do exactly that when it comes to others. Think about some of the greatest leaders recorded in Biblical history. What does it look like when God leads?
Abraham obediently and blindly left his home land following God’s lead. He travelled throughout the promised land that would become the land inhabited by his offspring, Israel. However, when famine struck, he ran off to Egypt. He literally walked away from God’s promise when things got tough.
Nowhere is it recorded that Abraham sought after God’s direction in the matter, he just ran off from where there was lack to where there was plenty from a worldly perspective. That ended up being a curse to him in many ways and for some time. In fact, the land of Egypt tripped up his ancestors many times as well! Yet still, God blessed Abraham and eventually fulfilled His promise to him and his children for generations.
Of course, we mentioned David. God spoke to the prophet Nathan and said:
2 Samuel 7:8-9
8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth.
From being overlooked in the field to one of the greatest men on the earth and certainly not without his failures. Of course, empowered by the Holy Spirit, David was not only one of the greatest men on the earth, but he also commanded an army of mighty men. The Bible even takes the time to list them all off by name as well as some of their amazing feats. However, they didn’t begin this way.
We find their journey begins with David running away from King Saul as he and the warriors of Israel chase him down to kill him. David is literally hiding in a cave.
1 Samuel 22:1-2
1 David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. 2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.
David took command of four hundred men that no one else wanted and they were transformed into a group of heroes known forever as David’s mighty men. They were a group of men down and out in every way and they were honored by the Lord and radically transformed as they followed His lead. They went from cowards to courageous and shamed to esteemed.
Then there is Moses, chosen to lead Israel out of their Egyptian bondage and into the promised land shown to Abraham. We won’t even mention the fact that he was a murderer when God spoke to him in the desert, but take this into consideration:
10 Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”
11 The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
God chose a man with an apparent speech impediment to be his mouthpiece. God chose a man slow of speech and tongue to convince Pharaoh, one of the most powerful men on the face of the earth, to freely release hundreds of thousands of slaves that he relied on.
God chose the two things that Moses owned as well, his walking stick and coat. The walking stick turned from staff to snake and back to staff when he grabbed its tail and his hand turned from normal to leprous to normal when placed inside his coat. Of course, the Egyptian magicians did those same tricks at Pharaoh’s command.
Anyways, the point is that God again chose someone that we would have overlooked to achieve greatness. When God leads, all of our excuses and weaknesses and even our past sins are irrelevant.
Consider the disciples that Jesus chose. He chose Judas, a thief, as the treasurer for His ministry. Of course, we all know that Judas would also be the one to betray Jesus for 30 silver coins as well.
Jesus also chose a political zealot, tax collector, several fishermen, and others that we’re not even given a reference as to where they came from or what they did before Jesus invited them to be His disciples. He didn’t choose priests or teachers or other religious positions as we would expect Him to. However, these disciples launched a movement of God that lead you and I to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and will continue through the rest of the world’s future.
Think of Peter. This is the same guy that rebuked Jesus when He told the disciples about His soon coming death and resurrection.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
This is the same Peter that Jesus then calls his rock and promises to build His church upon. When God leads, even the least likely of people are enabled to do mighty things for God.
Then, we consider the apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul. Saul, the Jew of Jews responsible not only for the first Christian martyr in history, but also who was commissioned to destroy Christianity by doing whatever means were necessary to those found following Jesus.
God chose Saul to be the man who leads countless gentiles, non-Jews, to salvation through Jesus. This is the very same people group that Saul spent his life viewing as the scum of the earth unworthy of even sitting down to a meal with. God chose Saul as a missionary who planted church after church. God chose Saul to convince the church leaders that non-Jews were not only able to receive salvation, but that this reality was evidenced by the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
God chose Saul, a man of the law of God, to be the man to preach the grace of God. God chose Saul, a man who firmly believed that righteousness was only obtainable by faithfully following the law of God, now boldly preached that righteousness could be found by faith in Jesus Christ alone.
When God leads, even those who most fervently oppose Him can be His greatest allies and defenders.
While the nation of Israel was far from following the Lord, God raised up Josiah as the nation’s king at only eight years of age. Josiah, however, faithfully followed God. When Josiah was 26, he began to rebuild the temple and found the law of God and turned the entire nation back to doing what was right.
When God leads, age is meaningless, both young and old. Even as Joel prophesied about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, God chooses old, young, male, female, any who would choose to follow Him to do great things.
Next week, we’re going to meet to reveal God’s vision for us for the new year. As God leads us, He is sure to do awesome things in and through each one of us. We may have a past that we’re not proud of. We may still not have it all together. However, God has an intentional habit of choosing ones that most others would overlook for greatness.
We may not be a world-changer like King David or Apostle Paul, but we can all be a spiritual giant to those around us. We may not see the entire world change because of us, but we can change the world for one person we know. We can make an eternal difference in the lives of those God has placed in our lives. People may look at our friends and see not much more than ones like David’s mighty men, but God can show us who they can be through Him. Prophetically, we can strengthen, encourage, and comfort them into God’s plans and purposes. When God leads, all things are possible!