May 30, 2018

21: Sermon: God Uses Ordinary People to do Extraordinary Things

This episode in the book of Judges shows us that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. But not for our own glory, rather for His purposes and will, and of course for His own glory.

Intro: Why are we studying the book of Judges? Why not just stick to the New Testament where God seems to be more loving and gracious. Why not stick to the gospels where we see Jesus and listen to his words of wisdom? Why not stick with what seems a little bit more relevant to our lives rather than an ancient document about a nation who constantly rebels against God and pays the price for it?

The truth is that the New Testament doesn’t make sense unless you understand the Old Testament.

Augustine wrote: “The New Testament is in the Old concealed; the Old Testament is in the New revealed.”

1 Peter 1:10-12 says,

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”

The Old Testament was not only written for the people of its time, but it was written for you. You and I need to see the story of God’s redeeming love. The Bible is one continuous story, it’s not just a compilation of books and letters and biographies. There is a cohesive structure, there is a common thread that starts in Genesis 1 and goes all the way through Revelation 22. You simply cannot read the Old Testament without reading the New Testament nor can you read the New Testament without the Old.

This is why we preach and teach from both. This is why your personal Bible study should include both. ALL the Scriptures are breathed out by God and teach us about His Son Jesus. The entire Old Testament points forward to the coming of a Redeemer who will save us from our sins. This Redeemer is revealed as Jesus, God in the flesh, in the New Testament.

Many people ask me this question: How were people in the Old Testament saved? The answer is simple, they were saved by faith in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. The OT believers were looking forward in faith. We look backward in faith in Jesus. But it’s our faith in Jesus that is central. Show chart.

Let’s read this Episode in Judges chapter 4 as it sits in its particular place in the history of redemption.

This particular episode shows that God continues to be a covenant-keeper, showing grace and mercy to those who do not deserve it nor have they earned it. God is saving His people and redeeming them from the hands of their enemies so that this nation He has chosen will continue in its posterity, ultimately leading to the birth of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus will build His church and even the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

While God does a variety of things in this story there is ONE KEY ACTION He takes:

God raises up ordinary people to do extraordinary things

  1. God Raises up Ordinary People to Accomplish Extraordinary Tasks

There are three ordinary people in this passage that God uses to do extraordinary tasks. Deborah, Barak and Jael. But then there were the 10,000 soldiers from Naptali and Zebulun.

All of them started in the same place you and I started, at the birth canal. Over their lifetime God was molding and shaping them and planned to use them in very specific ways.

Deborah was Judge over Israel and a prophetess. This means that she was the main leader of Israel, she spoke God’s Word to the people, she led the Israelites out of their oppression of Jabin, King of Canaan. She was courageous and obedient to the Lord.

Barak was the top military leader for Israel. He was weak-willed and afraid of the Canaanite army and initially did not follow the command of the Lord to fight them. Deborah had to step in and make him go and fight, but even then he said he would go only if Deborah came with him.

Jael was the woman who killed Sisera, general of the Canaanite army. She was supposedly an ally of Jabin, King of Canaan but she turns out to be on the Israelites side and drives a tent peg through Sisera’s skull, literally nailing him to the ground.

10,000 soldiers from Napthali and Zebulun. They had the courage to go and fight as the Lord commanded them.

Ordinary men and women, used by God to accomplish an extraordinary task.

We all start out as ordinary people. We all come from the same starting point, the birth canal. This was made laboriously obvious to me two Sundays ago when my daughter gave birth to our grandson. Holding this little baby, knowing how fragile he is, how dependent he is, made me realize that at one point we were all in his situation. We all start out as ordinary little babies, made in the image of God.


God brings us into this world, He starts to shape and mold us, He endows us with certain gifts, and talents, special abilities. But as we grow, God want us to participate in what He is doing in our lives. He wants us to see Him as our Creator. God wants us to see Him as our true Father. God wants us to realize and acknowledge our sin, selfishness and rebellion. Then God wants us to repent and turn away from our sin and turn in faith to Jesus. God has sent Jesus to turn us around, not to just make us good people, but to make us new people. And then God wants to use us to accomplish and carry out His will.


God puts His Holy Spirit into our lives in order to sustain us, empower us, and encourage us as we seek to live out His will and accomplish His mission.


Do you understand what God’s mission is? Have you thought about it lately?

The mission of God is world domination. God is not settling on just being another god to worship in a world of many gods. God is not settling for just a little slice of the pie. God is in full domination mode. God is way bigger and more powerful than anything else in all creation, including anything else that could possibly exist in the universe.


We live in our own little worlds, our own little kingdoms, we live in our own little Midlotopia. And while this zip code is a part of God’s world domination, He has even bigger plans. And you are a part of those bigger plans. The extraordinary things you do here and now, will extend beyond what you could ever imagine.


Let’s just think about how this church was started and who God used.

Andrew was our founding church planter. We all know him as a risk-taker, courageous, hard working, evangelistic and a great leader. However, Andrew started at the same point the rest of us did, the birth canal. At one point Andrew was in a middle-school knucklehead class. Over time God molded him into the man he is now and look where our church is, we’ve gone from 50 to over 500.

But there were other people involved in the first years of Spring Run as well. The Orcutts, the Morins, the McCloys, the Germains, the Kozlowskis, the Mays, the Huffs, the Braughtons, the Thomans and more that I’m sure I have left out. But God used you, ordinary people to do extraordinary things:


Leading Community Groups, the nursery, children’s worship, worship teams, Bible Studies, youth group, going on missions trips. And many of you were not in the spotlight of a leadership role but God still used you in extraordinary ways as you served in the shadows, as you visited people in the hospital, as you took care of other peoples kids when they needed a break, as you loved people through their pain and suffering, as you faithfully discipled the next generation of God’s people.


Is there anyone here who taught Sunday School for Andrew May? How about Clara Conrad, Molly Fletcher, Lindsay Kozlowski? Do you know that the impact you had on these kids is now impacting hundreds of other people? Andrew is now in Spain as a missionary. Clara, Molly and Lindsay are now at JMU volunteering for Young Life, reaching out to unchurched teenagers who desperately need to hear and see the gospel.


But here is what will happen… the people they lead to Christ will go on to lead others to Christ. The cycles of family dysfunction will be broken, relationships will be restored and reconciled. Churches will grow and flourish with these new believers, which will in turn be sent out to make more disciples and on and on it goes. These kids will go on to be nurses and teachers and leaders in their communities and churches. We are talking about world domination.


God takes ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things. Some of you are thinking, not me, I can barely get out of bed in the morning. Well, maybe for you getting out of bed is an extraordinary thing God is doing in your life. Or maybe you are the one who goes over to the house of the person who can’t get out of bed and helps them get out of bed, then you take them for a walk and you encourage them with the unceasing love of Christ, the love of Christ that has filled you to overflowing and you have to pour it out on those around you.


You are raising the next generation of students, of moms and dads who will be used by God to do extraordinary things. They will love and lead people to Jesus, they will plant more churches, they will serve the poor, they will reach out to the lost and lonely, they will fight for justice, they will stand up for the oppressed, they will lead people in worship, they will start neighborhood Bible studies, they will be the next Sunday School teachers, the next pastors and youth workers, they will train their children to follow Christ, they will continue in God’s endeavor to DOMINATE THE WORLD.


But in order to be used by God you have to get in the game. You can’t just sit in the bleachers. God doesn’t want bench warmers, God wants people willing to take risks, people willing to get off the couch and away from the tv and computer to go and BE with people. To influence them, to love them, to be a blessing to them.

We will look at Judges 5 next week but in a sneak preview… Judges 5 is the song of Deborah and Barak about this episode.


It starts, “That the leaders took the lead in Israel, that the people offered themselves willingly, bless the Lord!”


The nation of Israel needed leaders that would actually lead and not sit around and do nothing or allow the nation to continue to be oppressed. Deborah and Barak got up and led the nation into battle, a battle that was life threatening, this was not a peace summit talk held at Camp David, this was a bloody battle, where people fought and died.

When it says, “the people offered themselves willingly” they are talking about the 10,000 soldiers. They didn’t need unwilling soldiers, they don’t fight very well. But a willing soldier who understands what is at stake is a soldier you want fighting for you.


Later in chapter 5 this song starts to chastise the other tribes who did not participate in fighting the battle: “Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan, Dan stayed with the ships, Asher sat still at the coast of the sea, while Zebulun risked their lives to the death and Naphtali on the heights of the battlefield.


This is telling us that some of the Israelites sat on the bench, they stayed home instead of fighting. They refused to get into the battle with their brothers. How sad. They completely missed out on seeing the absolutely amazing way in which God won the battle for them. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but this battle was won by God and it’s another crazy story in the history of Israel.


Let me close with this. We all want to live extraordinary lives. I know some of you like your comfortable, insulated life that keeps you from the big scary world. But deep down, you want to make a difference, deep down you want to be used by God. If you lay in bed long enough you get bed sores, if you sit in those metal bleachers long enough your butt gets sore, nobody really wants that. Deep down you all want to get in the game, deep down you want to know what it feels like to get hit by a linebacker,


But seriously, what you really want is to know what it feels like to experience the transforming power of God in your life. You really want to see God at work, you want to watch Him bring dead people back to life, you really want to be a part of watching Him restore marriages, reconcile relationships, free people from addictions, bring justice to the oppressed. But in order to see God at work you have to get in the game. Let’s make that commitment today, to get up off of our comfortable lives and be used by God to accomplish the extraordinary things He wants to accomplish in His mission to dominate the world.


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