Tonight I’m going to challenge you to ask God if you are where He wants you to be. And if you’re not, are you willing to move?
Let’s turn in our Bibles to Luke 2. And we’re going to be reading again the same passage as last week.
Last week we spoke about having an Encounter with Jesus. Do you see what an encounter with Jesus is like? It amazed and astonished people, and confused them because they simply couldn’t understand what He was saying to them.
Look at Mary’s interaction with Jesus was like. She asks Him a question, and His answer she doesn’t understand. But verse 51 tells us that she treasured what He said up in her heart, possibly waiting for a time when she might understand it.
One of the things that Mary teaches us is that we don’t always have to understand what God is saying to us, but we do always need to accept it, and treasure it up in our hearts until that time that we start to understand it.
So here is Jesus, this little boy who boggles the minds of learned teachers with his questions and answers, with his ability to reason and drive spiritual truths home in incredibly personal and practical ways.
When it says there that he ‘astonished’ the listeners, I shared with you last week that that word has the connotations of eye-popping amazement. You can imagine these teachers of the law looking at one another with eyes this big, and then at the boy, and then at each other trying to figure out if this was real.
The people around Jesus were astounded by the words that He spoke. NB: People have never failed to be astounded by the words that come from Jesus.
So here we are: Jesus is astounding the leaders of the Jewish people with His depth of knowledge, with His wisdom and understanding.
A GREAT OPPORTUNITY
As I was reading this story, I started to think about what a great ‘start’ Jesus had made, what A GREAT OPPORTUNITY He had opened up for Himself.
He’s 12 and in the temple surrounded by religious leaders who can’t believe how wise this boy is during a time when there was huge anticipation of the coming Messiah.
Jesus has it made! He was in the right place at the right time. If Jesus were to become known as the Messiah, surely the best place for Him to become known was in Jerusalem. Even at the age of 12 the teachers were astounded by Him. By 15 all Jerusalem would lift Him up as the greatest teacher. By 20 He would rule the Jewish people. All Jesus had to do was be Himself and stay where He was. Right now it seems like the most logical choice.
But that’s not how it happened! Here’s how it happened: (vs. 51) “Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them...And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.”
Instead of staying where it seemed most logical, most rational, and most advantageous for Jesus and for His purpose, Jesus willingly returned to obscurity in Nazareth, a backwards town, where for many years he was, as it were, buried alive.
Does that seem strange to you?
A WASTED OPPORTUNITY
Does it seem strange that Jesus would give up on an opportunity to be known and respected and loved and followed? It looks like a terribly WASTED OPPORTUNITY.
I mean, of all people, Jesus ought to be known. He should be put on a pedestal, high above others, made more famous.
He’s a light that needs to shine, and as Jesus said you don’t light a candle and put it under a basket, no, you let it shine.
If this place seemed like the most logical place for Jesus to be, why did He go to Nazareth?
Why did He do that?
Because what God wants is not always RATIONAL (to us), but it’s always RIGHT. Because what God wants doesn’t always seem BENEFICIAL to us (at least not immediately), but it’s always BEST.
I want to illustrate this with two stories.
Imagine this. Judy’s been a part of Westpoint Community Church for 5 years. She’s been growing so much spiritually because of the sermons she’s been hearing on the radio. She’s growing in her understanding of God’s incredible love for her, and she’s learning to share that love with others.
But when she tries to share God’s love with those at Church she’s met with a brick wall. It’s like the soil of their hearts are concrete floors.
She hears that the Church around the corner from Westpoint is more fellowship-y, and the people there genuinely love each other. Her friends are inviting her to join them there.
As she thinks about it, it sounds like a reasonable choice. At least there her spiritual efforts would be appreciated.
Judy’s considering changing Churches, but she’s got this nagging sense that it’s not the right choice for now. She isn’t sure, but she thinks the nagging feeling is from God, that God wants her to stay put.
So Judy stays at Westpoint. She’s not sure why God wants her to stay, but she’s going to stay until she senses that God wants her to go. She’s not going to stop seeking God though, and when He calls her to move, she’ll be ready.
How about this story. John’s worked hard, and at 40 years old he and his wife have a small home and 4 children, the first is about to enter teenage-hood. Finances are tight but secure. But the big bosses at the head office have recognised John’s alert mind, and they offer him a new position at their office in the Seychelles. The salary is more than double what he’s getting now, his leave is increased; and the position comes with a beautiful home close to the beach and flights home for him and his entire family 3 times a year.
But John feels called to his Bible study group. He has 4 men that he’s discipling right now, and he doesn’t feel called to leave that right now. So John stays in his small home and trusts the Lord to provide for them as a family as the future unfolds.
He’s wasting his talent, right? It looks like he’s WASTING AN OPPORTUNITY. If he took the job he could afford to send his kids to successful private schools. If he was thinking of his family instead of himself, he’d take the job, right? He hasn’t taken his wife on a holiday in 5 years.
What is John thinking?
John’s thinking, ‘God, where You want me is where I’ll be. But if you don’t send me, I won’t go.’
GETTING GOD’S GUIDANCE
Let’s talk about GETTING GOD’S GUIDANCE.
Let me ask you a question:
Are you where God wants you to be? Are you going where God wants you to go? Or are you simply going wherever seems most convenient or most advantageous to you?
I challenge you, tonight, to go home and turn your hearts responsively to the Lord. And there, in God’s presence, ask Him if you are where He wants you. Ask Him if you’re doing what He wants you to do?
You may feel a still, small voice telling you you’re right where He wants you, and don’t move. You’ll feel that sense of peace.
You may feel a small prodding on your heart, like God wants you to move. You might not even know where He wants you to move yet, but at that point... ARE YOU WILLING TO GO?
Maybe you say to yourself, but what if God wants me to go? What will I do if He actually tells me to leave? Leave my job; or leave my group of friends; or leave my gym. But if I do, where will I go? What’s going to happen to me then?
I want to encourage you: If God wants you to move, He will take care of you when you obey. He will take care of you when you obey.
Think of Abraham. This man lived with his family in Ur of the Chaldees. He had land and possessions. He had friends. But the Lord called Abraham to take what he could carry and leave that place and go. “Go where, LORD?” “Go in that direction Abraham, and keep going till I tell you to stop. Then stop and stay.” And that’s what Abraham did.
God took care of Abraham because Abraham obeyed God.
God promised Abraham that God would bless all the world through him and his offspring. But Abraham didn’t have any offspring, so God gave Abraham a son, Isaac, even in his very old age.
Isaac then had a son and named him Jacob.
God called Jacob also to trust Him. In a vision God spoke to Jacob and said: (Gen 28:13-15) “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendents will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
God took care of Jacob. He protected and blessed Jacob and kept all of His promises to Jacob.
That’s true even until today. All peoples on earth have been blessed through this family because from them came Jesus, the One and Only Lord and Saviour of the world.
Abraham was faced with two choices: Stay here in Ur amongst my family and friends, where I have a stable job and home. Or do I listen to the leading voice of God and go where He sends me, though I don’t know where, and trust Him to take care of me?
In a very real sense, Abraham was faced with these two choices: he could ignore God and enjoy the lush, friendly land of his home; or he could obey God and endure the long journey and dry wilderness ahead.
Kind of the same choices Jesus was facing: he could ignore His heavenly Father’s leading and enjoy fame and a following in Jerusalem; or He could obey His heavenly Father and endure the insignificance and obscurity of Nazareth.
We know that Jesus was always obedient to God, and never failed even once.
I want to close tonight by sharing a story.
I read a story a few years ago about a little girl.
This little girl had wanted for ages to have a pearl necklace like she saw the movie stars wearing. And one day, while she was at the shops with her Mom, she spied one of these toy pearl necklaces.
So the little girl asked her Mom sweetly, “Can I have that toy pearl necklace, Mom?” And her Mom got it for her.
This little girl was so excited about the toy pearl necklace. The next morning she was up early and pulled out the pearl necklace and put it on and went out into the garden to play. She had tea parties with the necklace on; and when her friends came over to play she proudly showed it to them – but she didn’t let them touch it because she didn’t want it to break or get dirty.
Her Dad watched her through the day, so excited about this toy pearl necklace. When it finally came time for bed, he went to go and tuck her in. He sat by her on the bed and said, ‘My girl, do you love me?’ His little girl smiled and said, ‘Yes daddy, you know that I love you!’ Her Dad said to her, ‘Would you give me that toy pearl necklace?’
The little girl was shocked. She thought for a moment, then turned to her Dad and said, ‘No, I want it, I want to keep it.’ And her Dad smiled, and gave her a goodnight kiss, and tucked her in as he normally would.
The next day the little girl woke up excited again. She grabbed that toy pearl necklace, put it on, and ran outside to pray. Again she spent the whole day playing with this toy pearl necklace.
When it came time for bed, her Dad came to tuck her in again. He said to her, ‘My girl, do you love me?’ A look of panic crossed his little girl’s face as she thought about what might be coming again. But she said, ‘Yes daddy, you know that I love you!’ Her Dad said to her, ‘Would you give me that toy pearl necklace?’
Her little girl was sad and said, ‘No daddy, I can’t, I won’t. I want to keep it.’ And her Dad smiled, and gave her a goodnight kiss, and tucked her in as he normally would.
The next day the little girl was less excited as she played with her toy pearl necklace. Her heart was heavy as she thought about her Dad’s asking for the necklace. She didn’t know why he was asking for it, but she wanted her daddy to be happy.
So that night, at bedtime, her Dad came in to tuck her in again. As he walked into the room, there she was, holding tightly onto the toy pearl necklace. She looked up at her daddy and he saw the tears in her eyes as she held it out and said, ‘Here daddy, you can have this if you want.’
He beamed from ear to ear, gave her a hug and a kiss and took the toy pearl necklace. Then, reaching into his back pocket he pulled out a box. Handing it to her he said, ‘Here, I want you to take care of this.’ And when she opened it, there she found a real pearl necklace shining brightly in the dim light of the room.
I challenge you to go home tonight; go to God and ask Him if you are where He wants you. Listen carefully for His answer.
Don’t be afraid about what He might tell you to do, just be ready in your heart to obey Him however He leads.
Those again: (i) ASK HIM; (ii) DON’T BE AFRAID; and (iii) BE READY.
Remember the story of the little girl with her toy pearls. Why hold on to toy pearls when God has shown us in His word that if we give anything up in obedience to Him, He will abundantly reward.
And God never fails to faithfully keep His promise. He didn’t fail Abraham or Jacob or Jesus and He won’t fail you.
Determine in your heart to obey God’s leading, whether it be to Jerusalem or Nazareth; to fame or to obscurity; to riches or to poverty; but say in your heart, “God where You want me is where I want to be, I’m 100% certain of that, Lord!”