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Useful to God Sermon 2 Kings 7

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Text: 2 Kings 7

INTRO: 

What makes us useful to God?

  • We are Useful when we are (humble)

These 4 lepers are outside of the city because they are contagious.  Leprosy was a terrible condition.  It lead to isolation.  Humiliation.  Even in the best of times, a leper lived with a stigma of being an outcast.  Separated from people.  Rejected by God.  But in this case, the situation was even worse for their city was besieged by a belligerent army…and there was a terrible famine inside and outside the city.  If leprosy didn’t get these poor men, then starvation surely would.

And yet it was precisely this that broken them from pride and resourcefulness.  They had no resources.  They felt no pride.  They have nothing.  And that’s what brought them to the point that they would even dare to consider going and asking mercy from their enemies. 

As ironic as it seems—their desperation turned out to be their salvation!  Because their brokenness led to usefulness.

That’s one of the many paradoxes of the scripture.  When I want to use something, I find something that works.  I find something that doesn’t need to be fixed!  But when God wants to use someone, He doesn’t look for something that’s fixed.  He looks for someone who’s broken.

Humility.

Listen to the verses that talk about the importance of Humility.

Now, if you think about it, this actually makes sense.  Who wants help from a know-it-all?  If you are hurting inside, the last thing you want is someone who acts like they’ve never had a weakness.  They’ve never experienced a failure.  They’ve never made a mistake…

No.  The Good Samaritan didn’t give the beat up traveler a lecture on how dangerous the road is and how he should have been more careful.  You want someone around you who is humble, understanding, gentle in spirit.

Besides that, you can’t help someone in the name of Jesus Christ without Humility because to do something in someone’s name is to do what they would do…the way they would do it…if they were there.  So, it’s not even close to be accurate to say that you are doing something in the name of Jesus, if you aren’t humble about it.  He said of himself, “I am humble and gentle of spirit.”

Today, we’re talking about being useful to God, especially in the arena of reaching out to people who are far away from God.  And I just want to tell you:  Without humility, you’ll never be useful to God in this are.

The days when you could just get in someone’s face and say, “I guess you know that without Jesus you’re going to hell…”  those days are gone.  If that’s the way you approach it…I don’t know if that ever worked…it certainly won’t be effective today.  It may make you feel better to say it…but it doesn’t help anyone who’s hurting really get closer to God.

Today, people who are useful…churches that are useful…are the ones who put away all the pretense, the hypocrisy, the plastic faces, and the pious attitudes…and get down in the crevices of life and crawl with people through their pain.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve discovered that there is something that I can learn from almost any person on this planet.  Sure, I may know a few things about the Bible that they haven’t discovered, but I’ve also got a thing or two to learn from them.  And I’ve discovered that when I’m as interested in learning from them…as I am in educating them, my usefulness in leading them closer to God increases a lot.

These lepers were used by God to accomplish His purposes because they were broken and humble.  And you may be looking at what’s broken in your life as a handicap, but maybe it’s a great asset because it is what God is using to produce humility in you.

For example, an awareness of our own sin produces humility.  When Peter saw the things that Jesus could do, it made him aware of his own sin, and he fell on his knees and said, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  And yet, it was this humility, which Jesus kept developing in Peter that made him such a marvelous servant.

Sometimes our weakness against strong adversaries creates humility in us.  Like Jehosophat saying to the Lord, as three gigantic armies prepared to attack Judah, “Lord, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”

Sometimes, when we’ve failed at something that was very important to us, it creates humility.  All of my life I wanted to be a High School Quarterback.  And my junior year I was the starter on our varsity team.  The problem was that we weren’t very good, and a big reason we weren’t very good was because I wasn’t very good.  Now I had some record setting games.  One game I threw 7 passes in the first half, and all 7 of them were caught.  The problem was that 4 of them were caught by the wrong team.  (That was the record part.) 

But, I discovered through the years that I can relate to people when they fail at things that are important to them.  I can empathize.

Sometimes humility comes when the circumstances we are in are so absolutely overwhelming and beyond our control, we simply get a fresh view of our littleness.

Now, it’s not that these things AUTOMATICALLY create humility, but if we allow God to work through them…they can.  And that’s what God wants because it is through that humility that God uses us.

By the way, part of the reason that humility is so important to being useful to God is not only does it make us more approachable, but it also gives us a deeper insight.  Suffering often produces a wisdom…a wisdom that comes from the deep pool of human experience…that pride just can’t reach low enough to grasp.  But humility easily dives down and comprehends it.

Before we move on, I want to say that there’s one more thing that can produce humility.  We can choose humility.  We can choose to humble ourselves—even if we seem on the surface to have no reason to choose humility.

ILL: Immanuel—Broken. 

I say that because Immanuel was in a unique position.  Nothing left.  Much like these lepers.

As a church, we naturally don’t feel that same desperation…But by the grace of God, we can choose humility.  We can choose to humble ourselves before God and say, “Lord, compared to the great task you’ve given us…all of our resources are like 5 loaves and 2 fish and there’s a multitude to feed.

Lord, compared to what some others have given you…we don’t have anything.  Lord, compared to the way you’ve used others, we’ve been playing preschool games.  Lord, we are nothing, but you are everything.  Please, have mercy on us.  Use us, lest we die.

  • We are Useful when we (Ask Good Questions)

One of the most common things I ask my kids when we sit down to eat supper every night is, “Did you ask any good questions today?”

Throughout history, God has used people who ask good questions.  When young shepherd boy David came upon the battle lines and saw the Israelite army cowering in fear in Goliath’s shadow, he asked, “Who is he compared to God?”

E.V. Hill told about going to an FBI Meeting where J. Edgar Hoover was informing the leaders of the nation about the dangers of the Black Panther Party.  He told how the Black Panthers were terrifying the city of NY.  People were afraid to go out at night and couldn’t use the bridge to Manhattan.

E.V. said he raised his hand to ask a question, “How many Black Panthers are there?  Does anyone know?” 

“Yes,” came the answer. “There are 91 Black Panthers.” 

E.V. was incredulous.  “91?  91?  That’s all?  91 people keeping 5 million people from using the bridge? How can this be?”

I’d say that’s a pretty good question.

These lepers asked the question:  “Why do we sit here until we die?”  They said, “Do we really have anything to lose by going to the Arameans and asking for mercy?  At worst they’re going to kill us…but if we stay here we know we’re going to die.  Why should we just sit here until we die?”

There are a lot of churches that are in the twilight zone that need to start asking some good questions.  They are in the twilight zone of their usefulness and they need to ask themselves, “Why should we sit here until we die?”  “Why should we sit here and do the same old thing, with the same old results, with the same old problems, and the same little old vision?  Why should we sit here until we die?”

One thing I’ve discovered is that growing churches are always asking good questions.  Dying churches are always making excuses.

Growing churches are constantly asking questions like:

How do people who are far from God think?

What do people who are far from God think about our church?

Does our ministry appeal to people who are most likely to make changes in their lives?

What changes do we need to make to be able to reach more people for Christ?

Is there a way to reach people for Christ besides the Sunday morning worship service?

Are there better ways than what we are doing now?

What are the barriers that hinder our outreach?

What does it feel like to be new in our church?

These are some of the good questions that First Baptist needs to start asking.

There may be some Personal Questions that you need to ask yourself, too.

Maybe you ought to ask, “Why should I sit here until I die?”

So many people have a dream of doing a really exciting ministry, but they never pursue it.  They suffer from the paralysis of analysis.

William Carey…famous for his 2 point deathless sermon, “Expect Great Things from God…Attempt Great Things for God.”  Upset the apple cart by going to the meeting of all the churches every year and asking the same question, “When are we going to do something about the unreached people in foreign lands?”

When are you going to do something about the unreached people group in “your world?”  Some of you have some great ideas.  I’ve heard some of them.  My question is, “Are you going to sit there until you die?  Or are you ever going to start?”

  • We are Useful when we are willing to (Take a Risk)

Questions are one thing.  Action is another.

Verse 5 speaks of where questions ended and risk began.  Verse 5 says that they got up and they went…and behold there was no on there….No one was there because God had done a miracle. 

I’ve noticed that many times God’s miracles travel down the road of our risk.

For example, it was a risk for David to actually take on Goliath…but out of that risk came a miracle.

It was a risk for Moses to go back to Egypt, but out of that risk came a miracle.

It was a risk for Elijah to gather all of those people at Mt Carmel…and pour water on the sacrifice and then to ask for fire from heaven.  But out of that risk came a miracle and out of that sky came a fire.

Our problem is we want the miracles without the risk.  We want risk-free miracles, and I’m not sure that miracles come that way.

Our problem in the American church is the closest thing we come to risk…is that we want to live as sinful as we can…and we are willing to risk that God won’t punish us now.  Instead of risking things for the Kingdom of God, we’re risking our lives against the patience of God.  Instead of taking the risk that we won’t lose God’s grace, we need to take some risks that require us to Use God’s grace to advance His Kingdom.

ILL: Please allow me to give one more Immanuel illustration.  We weren’t even meeting in our own auditorium…and I went to the church and said…

EXP: Look again at verses 6-8 to understand just how dramatically their fortunes have changed.  With one step of risky faith, they went from absolute poverty and certain starvation to abundance, deliverance, and freedom.  Their status from being despised lepers…leaped to superstar status right onto the pages of scripture.

And could I say to you…this is exactly what happens to us in the spiritual realm.  Before we know Christ we are in spiritual poverty…bondage…and then we come to Christ…and we are immediately showered with spiritual wealth and abundance…

Today, I’m going to ask you to make a commitment to get involved in reaching out to people who are far from God…It’s going to force you to the edge of your comfort zone.  For some of you it will mean taking a risk.  Some of the ministries, programs, approaches and steps we’re going to take as a church are going to have some risk to them.  I can’t promise you success.  I can’t promise you that every person you reach out to is going to come to Christ.  I can’t promise you that every thing we do is going to work.

But I can’t think of anyone in the scripture who was unwilling to take a risk that was also used by God. 

In fact, the only story I can think of that relates to it, is the man who was given a talent and he was afraid…afraid to take a risk…so he buried his talent in the ground.  He didn’t take any risk.  And it was him that the Lord condemned…and even what he had, he lost.

  • We are Useful when we (think of others)

2 Kings 7:9

Then they said to one another, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king's household."

As they were enjoying their newfound treasure…a new reality dawned on them.  There are others.

What’s happening at our church?  I believe that like those lepers God is leading us to start thinking more of others.

I’ve been studying the book of Matthew—and I’ve been struck by how often it talks about Jesus having compassion on people.  (Compassion is used more times in Matthew than any other New Testament book.  Only Psalms and Isaiah use the word compassion more than Matthew.)

These lepers said, “There is a city back there…that is in great need.  There is a city.”  That’s what God wants for our church to see:  “There is a city…”

They said, “This is a Day of Good News.”  It didn’t seem like a  day of good news.  It seemed like a day of doom, gloom, and starvation…but God had worked this great miracle.

And many of you are living in a day that doesn’t feel like a day of good news.  The news seems all bad…all the time.  You are oppressed; you are defeated in your goals; And yet…God has worked a greater miracle.  That miracle was at the cross…Every demonic power there is came against Jesus and yet He defeated them.

And His Spirit can come to live in you…I know you are attacked and harassed but the Jesus who beat them at the cross will beat them in your life.

And the way a church becomes useful to God is to start finding every possible wy to share that news.  Helpful people share the gospel.

95% of Christians never tell anyone else to be saved.  They never serve as the lighthouse.  They never become a bridge that anyone can walk over to find the Lord.  I believe that’s why 85% of American churches are declined.  You see in a growing church, 80% of the people bring at least one person every year.  20% bring 7 or more!

Thinking about others leads to a new urgency.  They say, “If we wait until…some bad thing will happen to us.”  I think the Lord wants the church to understand:  “If we do not recover the urgency in sharing the gospel, some bad thing will happen.”

Jesus said in Revelation 2:5 “If you don’t repent, I will remove your lampstand…”

Let me give you some bad things that can happen:

  1. Churches that stop sharing the gospel gravitate toward lovelessness, legalism, and internal fighting.
  2. Churches that don’t share the gospel don’t reach out to people who are most likely to make life changes.  Many times this means young families.  When the focus isn’t on young families, then as goes the nursery so goes the church.
  3. Churches that don’t share the gospel tend to drift toward theological liberalism.  Why? Because they have to justify their disobedience.  You see people can’t live with a guilty conscience, so they intoxicate it by getting drunk with liberalism that says things like “The Bible isn’t really God’s Word” or “Jesus is only 1 way to God” or “There’s no such thing as a literal hell.”
  4. Churches that don’t share the gospel lose the joy of their salvation.

Some of you may feel like, “This doesn’t seem right…God punishes us for not sharing the gospel?  Isn’t that a narrow, legalistic, unbecoming view of God?”

But I want to suggest to you that what the Bible meant when it said “Some punishment will overtake us” was…

You see God loves those lepers…but part of His purpose in saving them was to accomplish His greater purpose of saving even more…

Listen, God loves you and me and this church…but part of His purpose in saving us is for the greater purpose of saving even more…and when a person or a church isn’t accomplishing His purpose…He lovingly disciplines us and corrects us so that we will accomplish what we are designed for. 

I want to bring us to a close today.

There are several ways that you could choose to respond.

  1. Some of you are in need of the Lord in your life.  You’re just like those lepers outside the city.  There isn’t a place where you belong.
  2. Some of you are ready to go and share, but you are untrained…unsure…unprepared.

We’re going to give you a discipleship training program that helps you know how to share.  2 Ways.

I believe that every person needs to be trained in at least one of these ways.

(1)   Faith…

(2)   Becoming a Contagious Christian.

Take out your bulletin insert.

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