This message is one of messages Sharee preached at Generations Church in March 2018.
When I was growing up I had so many questions: I would ask why, what, how, where and when to everything. I drove people crazy and was often told to stop asking questions. I learnt early on that questions frustrated most people, but when my questions were answered it enlarged my understanding and knowledge and improved my execution of the things I learned. I decided to never stop asking questions. The older I get, the harder it gets to keep asking questions.
Whenever I met and spent time with a leader, preacher or pastor, I asked questions. When I read books and listened to podcasts and lectures, I asked questions.
Why do you do what you do, say what you say, and why is how you say what you say so important?
Can you see areas for improvement in my life or ministry? How can I grow in these areas? What could possibly hinder my growth in these areas?
What are you reading? What have you learnt that you can show me? How can I learn more? How can I become better at what I do?
My life was enlarged through people who took time answer these questions and impart into my life.
Many of us want to grow and increase which is a good thing. But what investment are we making?
In Luke 2:52 it says, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men”
Jesus is the example to all of us, He grew, enlarged and increased!
I had a young man in my youth ministry who learnt the art of asking questions early on. From day one of joining youth, at the age of 12, there was a ‘why?’ for everything. Some questions were annoying and some things I didn’t want to answer. Other things I didn’t have an answer to, which encouraged me all the more to ask questions.
He would ask:
Why did I do what I did? What would/did it achieve? Would I do it again? How can we improve it? Where can we make changes?
I’ve heard it said, ”People who ask the wrong questions get more answers than the ones who don’t ask any.”
He was one of those kids that was running and thinking at 100 miles an hour. He drove people crazy with questions, but was always hungry for more. He never wavered in asking questions and is still asking questions to this day. He told me at 16 that he wanted to run Youth Alive, our overarching State-wide youth ministry organisation. Ambitiously he asked lots of questions and he positioned himself to learn and find the answers to all his questions.
Now Dave Edgar, that curious 12 year old, runs a phenomenal youth ministry in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, is heading up Youth Alive Victoria and is continuing to have influence on this nation and beyond.
I believe the key to growing, increasing and expanding is found in the proceeding verse. In Luke 6:46 it says, “Then, after three days they found Him (Jesus) in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.”
Jesus learnt the art of asking questions, which lead to his growth in stature, wisdom and favour. Asking questions enlarges you.
“Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers” Robert Half.
Dave learnt the art of asking questions. Whether they were dumb, annoying or great questions, the answers challenged him and enlarged him.
Leader, I tell you the truth, the greatest thing you can do is sit around some great people, listen, and ask lots questions. Stay hungry, and pursue knowledge and execute wisdom.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing however, if you can learn in advance by asking questions, you win.
I’ve also heard it said, ”He who asks a question remains a fool for 5 minutes. He who does not ask questions remains a fool forever”
Don’t ever stop asking questions!
Growing up were you ever told to dream or to expect great things for the future? When I was younger, I had a dream to make Jesus famous through music. I had a confident expectation that all things were possible however that was until I discovered that I could not sing. Having a dream has to have some form of reality in it, and in my case it clearly didn’t. But what about when it does and those things fall short, what happens? Over time, I have seen disappointment when expectations are not met, and seen it lead to discouragement. When our expectations are not met in life, work, family, relationships, business, etc. it can often throw us into an inner turmoil. Our emotions can rage and the passion inside of us can die. With shattered dreams and visions we can think, where to from here?
Some walk away from those dreams, visions, plans and purposes. Some would say, “lower your expectations and you wont be disappointed.” Others say, “expectation is the root of all heartache.” I have experienced heartache and disappointment, but it has been when I have allowed my expectations to be determined by external factors; either a situation, or a desired result, or other people. On some occasions it resulted in discouragement that attaches to the soul leading to frustration, bitterness, resentment; and consequently disillusioned, I can I throw away my peace, my confidence and my expectation for the future.
When the sea begins to rage in our emotions, we need to ask ourselves “where are our expectations placed, and what are they placed in?” Determining this indicates where our trust really is. Are we moved by life and it’s challenges? Are we shaken or discouraged when our expectations are not met?
David in Ps 62.5 & 6 states,
5“My soul, waits silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.”
This scripture indicates that expectations in themselves are not bad or wrong, but where they are placed or from. David states “My soul,” which is our mind, our will and our emotions “wait silently,” silently defined as “making no sound; quiet; still,” indicating peace, no turmoil, or stress, no bitterness or resentment. This is a challenging thought to get our heads around.
When it comes down to it what are our expectations in, from, or on? People, things or opportunities? When they are in Him or from Him, we can hold to this promise, “we shall not be moved” and our soul, our mind, will and emotions can be silent, at peace, and we can say “it is well with my soul”. We can have confident expectation for the things he has birthed in us, so take the time to dream again, hold on to those dreams and desires and build a confident expectation in and on Him.
After many thoughts and conversation about seasons, a friend of mine reminded me,“It takes faith to step out, but it can often take more faith to stay.” It was a statement that has echoed over the past couple of days, as my reality. Faith is the great beginning, but staying in faith is harder. One word from God moves us to action in faith; we share that with others, and it’s here the excitement and expectation begin. We step out in faith; with people are around us, cheering us on, creating an atmosphere of faith, excitement and energy. This is where we start; we start with the end in mind, the finish line. There are people yelling and screaming with greater faith, expectation, excitement and passion. We can see ourselves living the dream like Apostle Paul says, “finishing the race,” crossing the finish line, and with satisfaction, revelling in the glory of the moment.
I am not sure what you’re currently in the middle of, or what you’re looking forward to the end of, but maybe you started this year with a goal in mind, losing weight, reading your bible, attending church or maybe stepping out in faith in the area of finance. Whatever it is, we have all been there but somewhere between this glorious end, and the excitement of the beginning there is the middle. What feels like the middle of nowhere, the middle of somewhere, the middle of here and there. It is in the middle where there is a silence, no atmosphere, excitement or passion, either from those who were there at the start or you. It’s the middle where reality kicks in, and where the loudest voice defines your end. It is often where people get discouraged and give up or walk away.
So what is the loudest voice in your life? The two most common are theirs and ours. However John 10:27 says,“my sheep hear my voice.” This is our advantage, we can hear His voice. The voice of God is in the middle, often a voice of comfort, encouragement, affirmation, affection and peace. Unfortunately all too often our voice, our mind, speaks loudest when in the middle. It requires intentionality, great faith and self-discipline to turn down the volume of the voice in your head, to actively hear His voice, and by faith, to bring your voice into alignment with His.
It is here where you decide between the pain, the pain of self-discipline or the pain of regret. I believe God wants to you to finish what you started. Your bible plan, financial plan, your faith step requires you to stay faithful in the middle, hear His voice in the middle. To remain with greater faith and expectation. Don’t live in the pain of regret from stopping or quitting. Luke 11:28 says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Let the loudest voice be His, defining your beginning, middle and end.
“Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.”
Everything that I have read or heard about ‘opportunity’ has been focused towards ‘taking it’, ‘seizing it’, ‘and making the most of it’. Even scripture says “Make the most of every opportunity… ” (Ephesians 5:16). No pressure. But what if I told you that not every opportunity that presents itself should be taken?
Now don’t get me wrong, the decision to take an opportunity can be a great thing, actually it’s how I started out in ministry. But how do you know if you should take an opportunity? Our decisions are influenced by our personal will, which is influenced by our emotions and thoughts, which can lead us astray.
For me, this season of my life and ministry is one of waiting and trusting God with my future. Honestly, it’s easier said than done and probably the most frustrating emotional experience I’ve been through to date. I am filled with vision and a sense of purpose, but I find myself waiting. And I don’t understand the season or its length, or what ‘it’ is that I am waiting for exactly. I have a dream in my heart and over time I have been offered many roles and responsibilities in organisations, churches and ministries. To the shock of a few I have taken none of them, not because they weren’t great opportunities or with great people, but purely because I sensed that this wasn’t ‘it’.
But what is ‘it’? How do you know what decision to make when you don’t know what ‘it’ is? Not knowing what ‘it’ looks like. Waiting for the unknown can be a frustrating experience for the soul. Yet I am filled with certainty in my spirit that when ‘it’ comes, I will know what ‘it’ is. But for now, I can tell you I know what ‘it’ is not, and I come to that conclusion with no regrets, which allows me to live out the mission I find myself in now.
This is an individual journey and discovery of obedience and decision-making, however there are filters you can use to decide if the opportunity in front of you is to be seized, or not. Here are the filters I use to make decisions when considering an opportunity.
1. Pray. The Spirit of God in me is often the clearest indication. I get a check in my spirit I can either shake or heed. Ps 32:8 “The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Just like you, I have made mistakes when I have gone against the check in my spirit and I have paid a great price. We often learn from past mistakes and recognise this over time. The comforting thought is, “His eyes are on us,” despite our mistakes or when we end up off track.
2. Does it lines up with the will of God for your life? God reveals His will through His Spirit and His Word. Ps 119:105 “His word is a lamp unto my feet.” It may not be a floodlight revealing all that is ahead but enough for you to see the now or next step. Let His word guide you.
3. Wise counsel around my life. I have mentors and leaders that help with perspective, wisdom and advice. Prov 11:14 Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers. Make sure you have these people in your life, as many mistakes can be avoided by asking people who have walked the journey ahead of you.
With all that in mind I decided not to take the role that was offered. After working through these three steps, I concluded it didn’t align with where I sense I am assigned.
The decisions we make determine our destiny and any short-term decisions have to be weighed against long term goals. Not every opportunity is an opportunity to be taken. Your alignment becomes your assignment. Pray and chose wisely and if you make a mistake remember God is God of your past, present and future. In Acts 7-9 it tells the story of Saul who thought he was doing the right thing. God found him and brought Ananias into his life to point him in the new and right direction. Trust that God has your life in his hands.
I have come to realise the faith journey is one of decision-making with wisdom, obedience and patience. Hebrews 6:15 “Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.” So I wait for ‘it’ in expectation, of the fulfillment of the promise.
As scripture says, “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:17). Walk in alignment with the Spirit and His Word, and with wise counsel you will walk into your assignment
When I first competed in a triathlon, the experience was a thrill and a challenge that I enjoyed. Yet I walked away unhappy with my finish times and placing. During the race I was in the pack and trying to keep up with the front-runners. It was so taxing and I felt more fatigued than usual. After being overtaken by a few people I became so frustrated, disappointed and discouraged that I wanted to quit. It’s no wonder I felt exhausted, I was comparing myself against those who had clearly been racing much longer than I.
Determined to improve, I picked myself up a multi sport watch so I could track my progress in pace, distance and time while training for the next event. It turned out to be a wise decision and I worked hard in training to improve on my personal best. Then when it came to race time, I was not comparing myself to others who ran beside me, but rather I ran according to my personal best pace in each part of the race. Wow! What a difference! I knew where to push myself and what my strengths were and the way I completed my race was no longer impacted by those around me.
I realised that by watching competitors around me, it only distracted and discouraged me from the game plan I had been working on. But when I raced according to the pace setter on my watch, it positioned me in the best place for me. In that race, I did my personal best in each leg of the race and worked to my my strengths. I love competition and am competitive by nature. I believe there can be a healthy sense of competition, but it can be dangerous when it becomes unhealthy competition.
Leader, let me encourage you to know yourself in ministry. Train for your game plan, to achieve your personal best and not to simply race against the rest. God has a plan for you, your life and ministry. He is your pace setter. Discover what His plan is, then pace yourself according to His pace, work hard and finish the race. Don’t get trapped in the comparison game. Comparison will only rob you, leave you dissatisfied and kill the joy you have. As 2 Corinth 10:12 says “.“…But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Don’t compare your journey to others, just run your race. Train hard, work hard, enjoy life and ministry and reap the rewards.
Gal 6:4-5 MSG “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”
Have you ever had a huge need with a deadline attached to it? Maybe it was a bill that you received and you wondered, “how will I pay for this?” I know what those moments are like, when all you can do is pray and hope that God comes through with a miracle. What a great comfort when we see God come thorough and move powerfully to make a way. We wipe our brow with relief, “phew, He came through.”
Watching God provide is inspiring. I love to look back and see the goodness of God and his incredible provision. Recently I watched God provide in advance in my life, while I was totally unaware of what I would need. Not only did He meet my daily needs, but also provided for the preservation of my life.
Last year I went on a 10 day trip to the US with 11 Australian youth pastors to met youth pastors from the US. One night we met a few pastors for dinner at a Thai restaurant in LA. After my meal I noticed that I was significantly wheezy and short of breath. I realised I was suffering asthma, but the attack came on unusually quick and my breathing was quite restricted. I took a few puffs on a Ventolin inhaler, hoping that it would settle. Within two minutes it was getting harder to breath, I looked at the trip organiser and said, “we’d better go to a hospital.”
Upon reaching the hospital I was breathless and concerned. My chest getting tighter and the doctors were perplexed. They looked at me and said, “we don’t think that you’re having an asthma attack, we think you’re suffering from anaphylaxis.” They quickly administered adrenaline and within moments I felt so much better. Within a couple of hours and instructions about what not to eat in the US, I left the hospital, equipped with drugs and a prescription for 2 EpiPens.
We stopped off at the pharmacy on the way back to our accommodation and I handed over the prescription. After 5 minutes the assistant called me to the bench and said, “you have a prescription here for 2 EpiPens, however we don’t have any 2 packs left, and normally we would give you a one pack to make up the two pack but we have run out. Are you happy to take the 3 pack? It will cost you extra. Or you can go find another chemist.” I just said, “that’s fine.”
It was only 10 days later that I would have another reaction, at a greater intensity. I would require 3 EpiPens just to survive until the paramedics arrived to administer a fourth hit of adrenaline, which saved my life. Some would consider this to be a coincidence, however I saw this as the provision of God for the preservation for my life.
After this experience I came to realise that if God can provide for the preservation for my life in advance, then He can easily provide for my daily needs and requests. See often it’s only once we receive the bill that we initially freak out, but the truth is that God saw that bill coming before it arrived. In the same way He saw to the provision for that need in advance.
Not one thing that takes you by surprise, ever takes Him by surprise.
It’s a comfort to know that He knows all your needs before you. Jesus said, “Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matt. 6:8). He is a good God, never missing a moment or a need in our lives. He is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14).
You can have a great confidence in His provision and be encouraged through God’s Word, that whatever needs you have now, He has seen it in advance.
Take hold of the promises in His Word. “And my God shall supply all you need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).
Ever gone somewhere and packed clothing and then realised upon your return that you didn’t wear half of it? While packing my bags to get ready for another trip, I was reminded of the extra luggage I had lugged halfway around the world. “Why did I bring this? Do I need this? Do I need that?” I found myself asking. I threw a few things out along the way to lighten the load, but there were some things that I didn’t want to let go of.
Thinking about it further I realised there is a lot of baggage that we carry through life that we don’t want to let go of. There are things that we hold on to that weigh us down, things we don’t want to let go of; past hurts, offense, unforgiveness, regret and things we can’t change. Maybe someone hurt you, or someone you trusted betrayed you. If we hold on to these experiences they add weight, excess baggage, to our lives. We are reminded in the passage in Hebrews 12:1 that we are in a race. The idea of trying to run a race with luggage and so much weight makes no sense. Why would we do that? The writer says, “Let us lay aside every weight … and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Maybe it’s time for you to lay aside, to leave behind, to run without that weight. It brings such freedom, imagine running the race without excess baggage.
At the end of the trip I was trying to squeeze in some extra shopping. Between myself and my friend we had shopped well, maybe a little too well. When weighing our bags at the airport check-in my friend’s bags were 6 kilograms over the allocated weight. “There is a $100 charge for each bag that’s overweight,” the hostess said. I looked at my friend, then looked at my bags. “Let’s weigh mine,” I said. The scales showed my two bags were each 3 kilograms under, phew! We had avoided the excess baggage charge this time. So we rearranged some luggage, spread it out over my underweight bags, and saved her a couple of hundred dollars in excess baggage, that we could definitely not afford.
There are two problems with excess baggage: 1. It’s a pain to lug around; and 2. It comes at a cost.
You can’t afford to carry the excess baggage any longer – it’s going to cost you more than you’re able to pay. In 1 Peter 5:7 Jesus encourages us to, “cast our burdens upon him.” Jesus is saying – I have the space and ability to carry this for you, it’s time to lay it aside and throw off the weight. Today, take the time to unload the excess baggage, to transfer the weight. Don’t let it cost you, when Jesus has already paid the price.
After a few weeks break from running due to wintery weather, spring decided to pay a visit, so I started out for my usual routine run. Approximately 3km in I had tired legs, was exhausted and feeling the stretch. I thought, “I am glad that I am not at the gym on the treadmill, because I would probably bail based on how I feel right now.” Being out on the track meant I had no options. I got out there and now I had to make my way home. You can’t just bail and decide you’re done and stop there, you have to finish. I remembered when Paul said, “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
We can have an incredible confidence that, even when our flesh wants to bail, He says, “I started it, I will finish it.”
Aren’t you glad that when you have those “I want to bail” moments that you serve a God who doesn’t have too hard days, or tiredness to make Him retire? What He started out, He will finish. When He says in Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha, and the Omega, I am the beginning and the end,” He means it. He is who He says He is.
Usually the moment you want to quit, comes right before the miracle happens. Paul encourages us in Galations 6:9, “ So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Sometimes it’s just a matter of pushing on even when it hurts or it’s hard. After running another 1km with the burn in my legs, all of a sudden I hit a new level of energy. The fatigue and exhaustion seemed to have left my body and I found a new momentum. I ran 8km that day and finished what I had started, feeling great, but I had to push on or I never would have finished. We reap the rewards when we push on.
Consider the race that you are in. There is a beginning and there is an end. The bonus we have is that He is with us from the start and will see us through to the end. Hebrews 13:5 says, “He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Keep running your race with confidence. He has the end in mind.
During an overseas trip earlier this year, I experienced restricted breathing; the very breath being squeezed out of me. It had me thinking about breath, and how every breath we take is life providing and valuable, yet we take it for granted until it’s restricted in some way.
An asthma or anaphylaxis attack is often described as being like an elephant sitting on your chest or a python wrapping itself around you. It’s a squeeze that restricts your ability to breathe, a tightening in your chest, and breathlessness. It’s an intense experience where every gasp for breath becomes harder, you become fatigued, lack oxygen, which eventually leads to the death of vital organs.
I have discovered we can sometimes feel like this in life & in ministry. We feel the effects of the squeeze, a breathlessness, exhaustion and lack of oxygen that brings disorientation. You fight hard for every breath and sometimes you wonder, “is it worth the fight?!”
So often I have discovered that when we are in a place of exhaustion or feeling the squeeze, we try to medicate ourselves with holidays or a day off, or extended leave, or family time. While all these things are good and are definitely required, they don’t fix the core problem.
See, from the beginning when Adam was created from the very dust of the earth, he became a living being when God breathed life into him. Psalm 104:30 says, “When you give them your breath, life is created.” The verse before this states, “When you take away their breath, they die and turn again to dust.” Life comes from breath and death comes from the lack thereof.
We have a very real enemy that wants to squeeze the very life out of you, make everything harder and watch you fight just to survive. It feels like death is approaching. The enemy steals, kills and destroys (John 10:10) and he tends to do it ever so slowly, just like a python. It’s the squeeze that takes the very air from your lungs.
Don’t give up the fight! When the right medication is administered it brings relief.
I believe more than ever that God wants to breathe life into you, resulting in full lung and life capacity. John 20:22 says, ‘Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”’ It’s the Holy Spirit who brings the breath of life. I believe it’s time for us to receive a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit. It’s not time to self-medicate, but rather let him administer life and breathe into you.
He is the air that you breathe, He is the oxygen to all your vital organs. Don’t wait until your breath is restricted, let Him bring you fullness of life. Allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you, simply receive, breathe in and breathe out.