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« Crucified for Life | Main | God Demands Your Best »

A Cause Bigger Than Yourself

1 Samuel 17: 23-31  Then as he talked with them, there was the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, coming up from the armies of the Philistines; and he spoke according to the same words. So David heard them. 24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. 25 So the men of Israel said, “Have you seen this man who has come up? Surely he has come up to defy Israel; and it shall be that the man who kills him the king will enrich with great riches, will give him his daughter, and give his father’s house exemption from taxes in Israel.”

26 Then David spoke to the men who stood by him, saying, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”  27 And the people answered him in this manner, saying, “So shall it be done for the man who kills him.”28 Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.”29 And David said, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” 30 Then he turned from him toward another and said the same thing; and these people answered him as the first ones did.31 Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. 32 Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.”

It is estimated that David was seventeen years old when he went down to see his brothers and the battle in which they were engaged.  He looked around to take in the sights and sounds of the battlefield.  He saw the Israelite army huddling cowardly behind their makeshift fortresses.  He saw the brazen armies of the Philistines, brandishing their swords on the distant hills.  He saw and heard the blaspheming voice of the giant Goliath as he taunted Israel.  But, almost instantaneously, even in his youthful mind, he recognized something far greater than his brothers, the fellow soldiers or even King Saul understood. 

This was not a contest between two armies.  This was not a showdown between a nine foot hero and King Saul.  David knew that this was about the honor of Jehovah held up for ridicule.  For this reason, he asked a profound question, a question that made him brush aside the insult of Eliab, a question that struck at the heart of the matter:  Is there not a cause?

Suddenly, the whole picture is brought into perspective.  If there is not a cause, then all of this is an exercise in futility.  If there is not a cause, why are thousands of soldiers lingering around in their trenches, polishing their swords and grooming their horses?  If there is not a cause, why the pomp and ceremony of the coronation of King Saul?  If there is not a cause, why the tabernacle and the priests, the prophets and the patriarchs, the tables of stone and the brazen altar?    If there is not a cause, why not just surrender lock, stock and barrel to the Philistines? 

Yes, there was a cause! 

There is a God in Heaven. This God in Heaven is the Lord Jehovah. 

6  Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.  7  And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.  8  Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it ? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any .  Isaiah 44:6-8 

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.

1  LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.  2  Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.  3  But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.  Psalm 3:1-3

There was a cause that swallowed up David.  Life was not about him.  The great meaning of life was that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was to reign supreme and his glory was to fill all the earth.  David understood that he had to lose himself in the cause if the cause was to triumph.  He knew that out there somewhere was a call, a meaning, a supreme reality of life itself that dwarfed his own life. 

When he went out to meet Goliath, he understood that David was not confronting the giant, but the cause was put on display for the world to see.  He was only one, small teenage boy, who, despite the lion and the bear, was not in a position to deliver victory into the hands of Israel.  David was only the representative of a much larger cause.  It was the cause that had to win, whether or not David ever did. 

I believe David went out to face the giant as symbolic gesture more than anything else.  He could not be sure that he would return in one piece.  He was absolutely confident, however, that what he was about to do would resonate within the heart and soul of Israel’s fighting forces.  Even if he did not win, Israel would be spurred on to victory.  The cause overshadowed the lone figure of a shepherd boy that day.

God is still looking for someone who sees something bigger than themselves to which they can give their all.  He is looking for a man, a woman, a boy or a girl who will say “I want to attach my life to something bigger than myself.  I want to lose myself in a cause so great that my life won’t matter as long as the cause succeeds.

In the spring of 2004, Austin Gutwein, as a nine year old boy, watched a video that showed children who had lost their parents to AIDS. After watching the video, he realized these kids weren’t any different from him except they were suffering. Austin felt God calling him to do something to help them. He decided to shoot free throws and on World AIDS Day, 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during his day at school. Friends and family sponsored Austin and he was able to raise almost $3,000. That year, the money was used by World Vision to provide hope to 8 orphan children.

From that year forward, thousands of people have joined Austin in a basketball shoot-a-thon called Hoops of Hope. By doing something as simple as shooting free throws, Hoops of Hope participants have raised over $2.5 million. The children left behind by AIDS now have access to food, clothing, shelter, a new school, four dormitories, a computer lab, teacher houses, and two medical testing facilities which he was told would save an entire generation. A second school is now under construction in India and right now, more than 550 children are being fed each day in Malawi.

Austin believes anyone, no matter what their age or skills, can make a difference.  In 2008, during one of the intermissions in broadcasting the Final Four NCAA Basketball Tournament and Championship, CBS announcer, Greg Gumbel, aired Austin’s story to millions of basketball fans around the world.  It is probably one of the biggest success stories to date of any humanitarian cause, certainly one started by a nine year old boy.

One summer morning as Ray Blankenship was preparing his breakfast, he gazed out the window, and saw a small girl being swept along in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside his Andover, Ohio, home. Blankenship knew that farther downstream, the ditch disappeared with a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert. Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the foundering child. Then he hurled himself into the deep, churning water. Blankenship surfaced and was able to grab the child’s arm. They tumbled end over end. Within about three feet of the culvert, Ray’s free hand felt something protruding from the bank. He clung desperately, but the tremendous force of the water tried to tear him and the child away. “If I can just hang on until help comes,” he thought. He did better than that. By the time fire-department rescuers arrived, Blankenship had pulled the girl to safety. Both were treated for shock. On April 12, 1989, Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award is fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew: Ray Blankenship can’t swim.  Paul Harvey

The Apostolic Mission

Last week I preached about Jesus Christ the Same, yesterday, today and forever.  I emphasized to you the importance of the Apostolic experience and the Apostolic doctrine.  We call ourselves Apostolic because we adhere to both of these scriptural truths.

But, in order for me to be absolutely honest, I have to tell you about the rest of the story.  You see, after the great miracle of the lame man’s healing at the Gate Beautiful, the religious hierarchy was stirred up against Peter and John.  They threw them in prison overnight, and the next day ordered them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus.  Here’s the response of the Apostles:

23  And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.  24  And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:  Acts 4:23-24 

29  And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,  30  By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.  31  And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:29-31

In order for us to be truly Apostolic, it is not enough for us to feel something and to know something.  We must also DO something!  We must embrace the Apostolic mission! 

You are not truly Apostolic until you have put your hand to the plow and begin to labor in the Kingdom of God.  First, the cause must change our lives. That’s Pentecost. Then, we must know what the cause is all about. That’s Apostolic doctrine. Last, we must live the cause.  That’s Apostolic mission. 

The missionary call.

45  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,  46  And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:  47  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  Luke 24:45-47

35And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 36But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. 37Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; 38Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.  Matthew 9:35-38.

The missionary mandate.

18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.  Matthew 28:18-20

Let me pause here to consider these two truths, the call and the mandate.  I can hear someone saying, “But, I’m not a preacher.  These scriptures don’t apply to me.  I’m just an innocent bystander.”  I remind you that Jesus spoke these words to the same people who later made their way to the upper room and were filled with the Holy Ghost.  That was 120 people.  Not all of them were preachers, but they were all filled with the Holy Ghost! 

Why were they filled with the Holy Ghost?  It was power from heaven to activate their mission on earth.  “But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea, and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

Jerusalem is home; Judaea is the surrounding communities; Samaria is Home Missions; the uttermost part of the earth is Global Missions. 

There is a level of missionary work that fits every one of us. 

Why, then, is it so difficult, so intimidating, so awkward for many people to pick up their call and own their mandate?  I believe that it is because we think it is beyond us.  It is too big for us. 

That’s the point today.  Yes, we serve a big God.  We have a big message.  We have a big cause.  This is a big world.  In fact, it is so big that you cannot do it by yourself.  You were not designed to do it by yourself.  God is not asking you put the world on your shoulders.  He is only asking you to attach yourself to His cause. 

 You will never be as big as you can be until you attach yourself to a cause bigger than yourself.

When you reject the cause, you forfeit the opportunity for growth, and the vision withers and dies on the vine.  I’m convinced that either you grow larger than life so you can affect the lives of others, or you shrink to the size you are now, and have no impact on the world.

The missionary commitment. 

 22  And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:  23  Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.  24  But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.  25  And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.  26  Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men .  27  For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.  28 Acts 20:22-28. 

What kind of commitment are you willing to make today?  Will you climb the cross of your commitment and die to yourself?

Are you saying, “Pastor, I have a dream for my life.  First, I’m going to get my degree.  Then, I’m going to move as far away from here as I can.  Then, I’m going to get a great, high-paying job and really succeed in life.” 

As long as your dream extends only as far as your own skin, you will never achieve the kind of fulfillment and happiness that God intended for your life.  There is something bigger.

Come and join yourself to a cause that will life you higher and take you farther than you could possibly go by yourself.

Alas! and did my Savior bleed?

And did my Sov’reign die?

Would He devote that sacred head

For such a worm as I?

At the cross, at the cross,

Where I first saw the light,

And the burden of my heart rolled away -

It was there by faith I received my sight,

And now I am happy all the day.

Was it for crimes that I have done

He groaned upon the tree? Amazing pity! Grace unknown!

And love beyond degree!

Well might the sun in darkenss hide

And shut its glories in,

When Christ, the mighty Maker, died

For man the creature’s sin.

Thus might I hide my blushing face

While His dear cross appears;

Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,

And melt mine eyes to tears.

But drops of grief can ne’er repay

The debt of love I owe:

Here, Lord, I give myself away -

‘Tis all that I can do!


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