STRETCHING MY IMAGINATION
from ‘50 Days of Faith’
Part 1 of 2
January 28, 2007
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
1 Cor. 2:9 (NLT)
“With God's power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine.”
Eph. 3:20 (NCV)
IMAGINE HOW GOD CAN USE YOU
1. LET GO ____________________________________________________________
“Anyone who doubts is like a wave in the sea, blown up and down by the wind... They should not think they will receive anything from the Lord.” James 1:6-7 (NCV)
“Be bold and strong! Banish fear and doubt! For remember, the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Josh. 1:9 (LB)
What causes us to doubt?
STRETCHING MY IMAGINATION
50 Days of Faith
Part 1 of 2
January 28, 2007
We’re continuing this morning looking at the topic of ‘Faith’ and let me begin by stating that faith is not blind as many would want to claim; it engages the intellect or at least it should do if you take faith seriously. The claims of faith are taken from scripture or God’s word which tells us that God put you on this earth for a reason. He put you here for a purpose. He has a plan for your life. He has a dream for your life. And God wants to use you for a great purpose, one greater than you could ever imagine. That’s why God made you. He made you so He could use you on this earth.
If we’re going to grow in faith we have to trust God’s promises. Now here’s this weeks’ promise which is Php. 4.13 “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” I hope you will memorize this verse this week so that when you start to doubt, when you start to feel discouraged, when you start to feel depressed God can bring that to your memory. The problem with trusting God’s promises is that it seems too fantastic to be real or true and so you develop emotional barriers that keep you saying, “How could God ever use me?” So for God to use you, for God to bless your life the way He wants to you have to have a change in your thinking, in your imagination.
Every great accomplishment that’s ever happened in history began as an idea in somebody’s imagination. It starts with a thought in your mind before it actually becomes a reality. Psychologists tell us if you really want to live you have to learn to have a dream. You’ve got to have a dream in life otherwise you’re just existing.
That’s good but it doesn’t go all the way. You need more than just a dream. What’s more important is that you need to get God's dream for your life; what He put you here on earth to do; what He wants to use you for, because if God isn’t using you, what in the world is your life being used for right now?
1 Corinthians 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” God's dream for your life is mind-boggling. It is so fantastic that you can’t even imagine it. You cannot imagine what God could do with your life if it was totally, completely, irrevocably given to Him.
“With God's power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we could ask or imagine.” One of the greatest gifts God has given you is your imagination. The ability to imagine is one of the things that makes human beings different from animals. You were made in God's image. So like our Creator you are creative. You have the ability to imagine. Napoleon said, “Imagination rules the world.” Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
What I want to do this morning is stretch your imagination because that’s what God wants to do. He wants you to imagine how He could use you in ways you’ve never, ever thought of. This morning we’re going to consider one of the major obstacles to faith; which in a sense goes hand in hand with faith – and that’s - ‘doubt’ and I want to clear the ground by firstly acknowledging that doubt is normal but it is also an obstacle to faith. More so next week, we’re going to look at the life of Joshua, a man you find in the HB or OT. His was a life that reveals four secrets of being used by God. Today we’ll cover only the first of the four because I think it’s important to take time to squeeze out all that God promises in relation to His dream for your life.
If you want to be used by God, if you want God's blessing on your life, if you want His dream for your life...
1. YOU MUST LET GO OF DOUBT.
Doubt is a great enemy of God's dream for your life. Doubt limits your potential. Doubt causes procrastination. Doubt causes you to miss God's best. You say, “I doubt that God could use me in a great way. Look at me!” And you start coming up with all kinds of excuses and doubts. The Bible says in James 1 “Anyone who doubts is like a wave on the sea, blown up and down by the wind. They should not think they will receive anything from the Lord.” So before you can be used by God in any great way you’ve got to deal with this doubt issue. The fact that you doubt that God could use you in great ways is a stumbling block to faith.
In our reading this morning Peter’s problem was doubt. He took his eyes off Jesus and the waves overwhelmed him. But doubt is nothing new. Doubt is still with us 2000 years after the time of Peter. 2000 years before Peter, Joshua had a doubt problem; he had a problem with self-confidence. He just didn’t feel very confident for two reasons.
1. He was the successor to Moses. How would you like to be the follow up act to Moses? It’s like “Here’s Moses!” who we’re told in the book of Deuteronomy is the greatest man who ever lived and now, “Here’s Joshua!” Great! I’d have a little self-doubt too following Moses’ act. Not only that but the assignments that God gave him. He said, “Joshua, you’re going to be the man who goes in and leads this little band of slaves who’ve been running around in the desert for forty years in fear, you’re going to lead them to take over the Promised Land – the area of Palestine. There’s only one problem, Joshua. Palestine is inhabited by seven enemy nations all of which are bigger and stronger than you guys. But we’re going to take it over.”
So he had a lot of doubt, a lot of fear. He didn’t have a lot of confidence in his life. So just on the verge of him beginning this campaign which was going to be a battle for many, many years, they’re standing on the banks of the Jordan River and they’re going to cross over the river and begin this campaign to take over Palestine which is now where Israel is today. And in that campaign, the night before, God says, “Let Me give you a little pep talk.” In Joshua 1 four times He says, “Be determined and confident.” He said, “Joshua, the first thing you’re going to have to do if I’m going to use you is you’ve got to let go of doubt.” Joshua 1:9 “Be bold and strong. Banish fear and doubt for remember the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Circle “banish”. What does that mean? It means “get rid of, eliminate, put it out of sight, dump it.” And if God is going to use you, the first thing you have to do is dump your doubts.
You say, “That’s pretty hard!” Well it is and it isn’t, because doubt is a choice. Every time you doubt, you are choosing to doubt. It’s a choice like any other attitude. Faith is a choice, doubt is a choice. Whenever you’re doubting God, your abilities, other people, you are choosing to doubt.
A lot of people believe their doubts and doubt their beliefs, which doesn’t make sense. It’s kind of illogical. I want to suggest that you doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs. And when doubts come up and you say, “God couldn’t use me,” say, “I have that doubt, but I doubt the doubt.” Instead I’m going to believe my beliefs. God said, “I will help you, I will use you, I want to work in your life.” Believe your beliefs - We have a faithful God. I think we’ll take a wee break and we’ll stand to sing again – no. 80 – Faithful One , so unchanging 1340 to here
Why do we have so many self-doubts about God using us? There are two things that cause self doubt in your life.
1. Comparing my abilities causes me to doubt my abilities. Instead of looking to God like I should be, I start looking around at everybody else. I look around and see other people. They have more talent. They have more abilities. They have more education. They have more experience. They look better. They’re articulate. They’ve got a better background. And on and on. The moment you start comparing yourself to other people, you’re going to be filled with self-doubt. God says don’t do that. In fact the Bible says it’s foolish to compare yourself with other people.
1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “It is unwise to compare yourself to other people.” When you do you start looking around and saying, “I’m just an average person, I’m just an ordinary person.” But the thing is: God uses ordinary people. If God only used superstars not much would get done in this world. In fact, if God only used perfect people, nothing would get done because there are no perfect people. God uses ordinary people. God uses weak people. God uses people with problems. God uses people with mixed motivations. God even uses dysfunctional people. He can use bizarre people, all kinds of people. God doesn’t want you comparing yourself to anybody else. He wants you to be unique. He wants you to be you. So don’t compare yourself.
2. The other thing that causes you to have self-doubt is remembering your failures. Remembering our past, our failures is kind of like putting a movie in your mind of all your mistakes and playing it over. And we replay it, we rehearse it, we go over and over it. And you look at those movies and say, “Remember that stupid thing I did in 2001? I think I'll just replay that in my mind right now.” It tortures you to death and you hate doing it. Why do you keep playing it over and over?
God does not want you focusing on your past. If you keep focused on your past mistakes, your failures, you’re never going to get on with your present and God can’t use you in the future. God says forget the past. If you look at your past and all of your mistakes (and all of us have lots of mistakes in our past) then you’re going to say, “God can’t use me. Look at all the things I’ve done. Look at the daft stunts I’ve pulled. Look at my chequered past. If people knew my background, they wouldn’t follow me or they wouldn’t listen to me or they wouldn’t like my ideas.”
Have you read the Bible lately? Most of the great leaders of the Bible didn’t exactly have a sterling resume. Their past was quite chequered and filled with a lot of bad things. Moses was a murderer before he became a great leader. Jacob stole his family inheritance. David was an adulterer and then had his liaison’s husband put to death. Abraham gave his wife away – twice! “Save my life, take my wife!” What a great man of faith! Paul was a religious terrorist before God got hold of him. Peter was a hard living fisherman. His language would have been typical of any fisherman. He had a temper that wouldn’t quit and he was always putting his foot in his mouth. Yet God said, “I think I'll use you.”
What I’m saying is, God uses people with chequered pasts. Aren’t you glad for that? God says, “I don’t care where you’ve been. What really matters is the direction your feet are headed right now.” That’s what matters. Not where you’ve been but where are you headed today. In fact, God so much wants you to focus on the future, forward instead of in the past, He built your body that way, as a physical reminder of which way you are to focus on.
When God put your two eyes in your head did He put them in the front of your head or in the back of your head? He put them in the front of your head so you would look forward and not backward at your past. When God attached your two ears to your cranium did He attach them facing forward or did He attach them facing backward? He attached them forward so you can hear the promises of God rather than listen to what people are saying behind your back. He wants you to focus forward. When God attached your arms to your body. He put them so it’s easier to reach forward than it is to reach backward. Because He wants you reaching forward, helping other people out. When God put your two feet on your ankles did He attach them facing forward or backward? He put them facing forward. He wants you to walk forward in faith and not backward in fear. In fact, in your entire anatomy, there’s only one part of your body facing your past. They don’t call it “the behind” for nothing. I think even in God's sense of humour He saying, “Folks, there’s some stuff in your life you really ought to leave behind.” Don’t let your past doubts, don’t let your past guilt keep you from being used by God. God says, “I don’t care what your past is. I want to use you!”
Next week we’ll look at the remaining three points to consider if you want God’s blessing on your life, so keep this week’s notes and you can staple it to next week’s.
Let’s pray: H/F we want to be blessed by you, to know you in our lives in a personal way and so we ask for your help to overcome our doubts and insecurities when it comes to our faith. Help us to stay close to you by reading your Word and holding fast to your promises. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen