Are You Equipped?
June 18, 2017
Are You Equipped?
As most of you know, I spent last week at Local Pastor Licensing School. As I prepared to go through this training, I was curious about how many other people would be there and what they would be like. For some reason, I assumed that they would be a bit older than me and have very quiet, semi-retired lifestyles. I found over the course of the five day stay that I was keeping company with some of the most extraordinary people that I would ever meet. Most of them had been serving as pastor to one or more churches as well as holding down full time jobs. What surprised me most was how much collective pain had been suffered by so many of them.
Mary Ann had lost her college-aged son in a car accident. Her husband is now battling cancer of the liver and kidney.
Terry had had dire health problems. While hospitalized, he died and saw heaven where he was given messages to bring back to people still living in this world, people only known to him through other people. Prior to this experience, he did not believe in God.
Donielle was a thirty-something year-old Iranian who had fled his country for fear of his life about nine years ago. He now attends Boston University School of Divinity.
My roommate, Robbin, had survived breast cancer and now suffers from painful neuropathy in her hands and feet as a result of side effects of her treatment.
Randi, the mother of two young boys, had suffered from Crohn’s disease since childhood and needed to take medication a few times a day and be extremely careful about everything she ate. There are days when she feels fine, but many days she forges on as a special education teacher, even though she feels horrible.
Rose Lynn had been serving as the pastor of a tiny church on an Onondaga reservation. Her husband committed suicide many years ago, when her two children were toddlers.
Zach, the twenty-two-year-old man that I sat next to all week, had lost his father suddenly to a heart attack when he was sixteen. Two years later, he lost his best friend in a car accident. He fought tears as he told me about it.
Then there was the widowed mother of eight young children.
This was a group much like the crowds that Jesus looked out upon in our reading today: the lost, the least, the last. But, there we were just the same, eager to earn the credentials that would allow us to dedicate our lives to serving God. As we sat in that classroom, twelve hours a day for five days, each one of us wondered how we battered, weak humans could possibly be capable of creating disciples of Jesus Christ for the good of the world. I believe that what we felt was very similar to what the original twelve disciples felt as Jesus prepared them to go make disciples in all of the nations.
In our reading today, we learn of Jesus walking through the land healing, teaching, and saving. As He gazed out over the masses with his disciples, He had compassion on them because they were troubled and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He saw his children wandering and lost and wanted to help them. He saw them filled with despair because of the loss of loved ones, filled with pain resulting from blindness and disease, filled with desperation for spiritual fulfillment that was not being offered by the Pharisees. They were yearning for God, but had been led by the Jewish officials to believe that they were sinners, unworthy of Gods Kingdom.
Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus saw these masses of searching, hurting people as the crop to be harvested. Yet, there were so many in need and so few to lead them to the Kingdom of God, to Jesus. Just as a trip of a thousand miles starts with a single step, Jesus took the first step toward growing His Father’s flock by gathering His small group of disciples and sharing with them the details of the work that they were now expected to do. They were to travel through the country sharing the good news, not expecting payment in the form of riches, but only what they needed to live. They would face danger and persecution, but they were not to worry, for God would be with them. Jesus needed these disciples to spread the good news, not just locally and for a short time, but make more disciples to continue sharing it globally and forever.
We sit in these pews because we believe in Him. Our belief is a symptom of something so profound, I think, often, we don’t recognize it. Our presence here, our desire to come closer to Him means that He spoke to our hearts somewhere along the line and we have responded. Each one of us here has been called to be a disciple of Christ. Just as the disciples were being sent as sheep among wolves to save people’s souls then, He sends each one of us now to do the very same thing. How can anyone feel worthy of or qualified to represent God? The better question is, after all we know that God does for us, how much He loves us, how can we NOT feel worthy to stand for our God and proclaim that “this is who my God is and these are all of the things He does for me.”
Something one of our instructors at licensing school was fond of saying was “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.” As Jesus told His twelve disciples, you will not be talking, but the Spirit of the Father will do the talking though you. You are the workers of the field. The Church must be grown though your work. When God needs you to accomplish a task for Him, He will equip you for the task. He will equip us for the task. We do not do this alone, for we can do nothing alone.
But how can God possibly prepare us to win the hearts of those who deny His existence, those who have given up on Him because they feel that He has either forgotten them or is merely a myth? The task is so huge and we are…well…just us. The amazing news is that He has already equipped us!
He has given us His word: “For with God, all things are possible.”
He has filled us with His Holy Spirit that inspires us, moves us and motivates our actions. It is that mystical fire within us that raises us above our natural human tendencies so we simple humans can strive to be like Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
He has blessed us with our very own, personalized spiritual gifts so we can be His hands and feet in our world. These gifts were not given for our pleasure but for the benefit of His church.
He has given us faith: the gift of God that allows us to proclaim our trust in Him with absolute conviction. Paul said, ”I want us to help each other with the faith we have. Your faith will help me and my faith will help you.”
As I asked earlier, after all that God has given us--after realizing how much the creator of heaven and earth loves each one of us--how can we NOT feel worthy to stand for our God and proclaim: “this my loving God and these are all of the things He has done for me!”
We have been called to bring more workers to the field, to reap lost souls for the Lord. God only gives us what we can handle. He knows that we can handle this because He is aware of the tools which He has provided for our use.
How will you use the gifts you’ve been blessed with? Who will you find lost and wandering and bring home to the Lord? God has called you. How will you answer?
Let us each renew our commitment as disciples of Christ and trust God so we can use the gifts he has given us, speak the words He will put in our mouths, feel the stirring of the Holy Spirit within us and rely on our faith to go out into the crowds of the lost, the least and the last and bring as many as we can to the Lord. For the harvest is still great and the workers remain too few.