Free to Fully Follow Jesus

Date Preached: January 29, 2017
From the Series: Financial Freedom
Scripture: Luke 5:1-11
Notes: Download PDF
Speaker: Gary Combs

Summary

Do you want to be free from financial worry and stress? Why do we want to be financially free? Will it lessen our anxiety? Yes. Will it reduce our stress? Yes. But life has a way of causing us to have worry and stress anyway. Following biblical principles for financial freedom will help, but it won’t solve all of your problems. Nor is it a method of becoming wealthy for the sake of your own comfort and pleasure. God doesn’t want us to be a slave to the lender. He wants us to be free to serve the Lord. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus called Peter to follow Him, turning all that he was and all that he had over Christ. Peter obeyed and followed Christ. We can turn all that we are and all that we have over to Christ and be set free to fully follow Him.

Transcript

Good morning, church! We are concluding our series today, entitled “Financial Freedom.” Over the past few weeks, we have discussed how to know your financial condition (week 1) where we had to “pull the band aid off,” take a look at it and get honest with ourselves about where we are financially. We talked about biblical principles and about how sometimes we are in a financial mess because we have gone after things that we couldn’t afford and had to confess that to the Lord (‘Lord, forgive me. Help me to change so that I will live within my means, or beneath my means.’) Last week, we talked about how to get out of debt. Biblical principles were offered on how to get out of debt. Today, we are going to conclude the series, talking about why you want to be financially free.

It is not so that you can have more for yourself. It is so you can be free to fully follow Jesus. It is so that you can serve Him with what He had entrusted to you. This is the reason for financial freedom; it is not so you can spend it all on yourself.  That is not God’s shape; that is not how God’s character is revealed in us. He wants us to be givers; he wants us to be conduits of blessing. He wants us to be financially free so we can be givers. That is what we are talking about today.

Do you worry alot about finances? When you think about this topic, does it give you anxiety? Maybe even now, you are thinking about some bill that is due this coming week? This coming week is the first of the month; that is when it all starts hitting you, right?  You know, the mortgage payment, the rent payment and the utility bill. You know, our church phone rings off the hook during the first few days of the month; people all over the city go through the phone book and are looking for someone who will pay their rent, their utility bill, etc. We have a benevolence fund here that you are givers to so that we have a little something to share when people are in trouble. But, there is a limit to that. So, there is people in need. You might be one of them today.

God’s will for you is that you learn from the Bible, through trusting Christ, how to live beneath your means so that you have something to share. So that you are able to live as God would have you so that you are a giver not a taker. So that you are someone that is known for being graciously able to give to others. I think that is what God wants us to be able to do. He doesn’t want you to be a slave to the lender; He wants you to be a servant of Jesus.

We are going to be looking at one of my favorite passages; some of you might say that it is one of my favorite passages because I preach from this at least once a year. Every time I get at it, I preach at it a different way. Talking about finances is how we are going to talk about it today.

A few years ago, maybe you remember, I guess I am in the remembering mode, because it is our 25th anniversary this week. Tonight we are celebrating this anniversary. I just keep thinking about where we have been. It was the summer of 2010, we were renting Community Christian School on Packhouse road, and we saw the opportunity to buy this property. It was beyond our reach. I remember that I preached through this passage, Luke 5. I preached it every week for four weeks. People in the church were wondering why the poor pastor couldn’t find anything else to preach from except this same passage. But every week I would see something new.

We called that series, “Go Deep.” We trusted God and God performed miracles in our church for us to be able to move into this building and acquire this property. Some of you have never heard that story. This property was originally being offered for $2 million dollars, it’s close to 6 acres, a 26,000 square foot movie theater. It was a Regal Cinema 6. The Lord got it for us; we only paid $285,000 for it. There is more detail to that, but that is what happened. Of course, we had to spend more money to get in here.

Some of you may remember being in this theatre to see a movie. Strangely enough, the last movie I saw in this building was in this room. This very room. Our church rented this room out; buying every seat in the room, to show “The Passion of The Christ” when it came out. It seems kind of ironic. It will be hard for me not to reflect on stories like that today as we talk about this series.

In Luke 5, Jesus asked Peter to trust Him with his possessions, with his work, and with all that he was. Jesus asked Peter, ‘Will you trust me with your stuff, with your calling, with your vocation? Will you trust me with your future?’ Peter said, “Yes.” I am praying today that each of you will do the same, that you will trust Christ with all that you are and all that you have and you will know the freedom of being able to fully follow Him in your life. That is what we are talking about today. Let’s dig in!

Luke 5: 1-11 (ESV)    1 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.  This is God’s word. Amen?

How to Live Financially Free to Fully Follow Jesus

1.  Give Christ control over your possessions.

Notice that Jesus had use of Peter’s boat. ‘Hey, Peter, can I use your boat?’ Now, Peter, let’s get the frame of reference here, had been fishing all night and caught nothing. Zero. Have you ever felt like that? You worked, you worked, you worked and came up with nothing? Have you ever felt like that? ‘I have got nothing to show for it. I am working my fingers to the bone and I have nothing to show for it. Every month, I have more month than money. What’s going on here?’ Peter, he is sitting there on the beach, cleaning his nets. He hasn’t quit but he didn’t catch anything. I would guarantee that he wasn’t in a wonderful mood.

Peter had met Jesus before and he knew He was a wonderful teacher, a wonderful rabbi and was creating quite a stir in the city of Capernaum where Peter and his brother, Andrew, and James and John had their base of operation. Capernaum was a fishing town, a very prosperous town on the road called “The Via Mares,” which was the road by the sea that came up through Capernaum and went all the way to Syria. It was a marketplace and a trading place; it was very prosperous. Jesus had made that His base of operation. Crowds of people, thousands of people, were coming in the city. They wanted to hear Jesus preach. They were probably pressing Him into the water.

So, Jesus asks Peter if He could use his boat. So, Jesus steps on the boat. Can you picture the people sitting on the beach now? Peter, who was cleaning his nets, now has to keep the boat out. Peter hears Jesus preach. Jesus finishes His sermon and then He turns and looks at Peter. He says, ‘Let’s go deep, let’s push out, let’s go fishing.’ Let down your nets and catch something. Peter is a professional fisherman. His father was a professional fisherman and before him and his father’s father’s father was, no doubt, a professional  fisherman. Peter knew fishing. He had fished all night, caught nothing, and he knew the kind of fishing you did, you don’t go deep in the middle of the day to go fishing.

But this Jesus, this carpenter who has come up to Capernaum and is attracting all of these crowds, He seems to know spiritual things. Whenever He speaks, it affects Peter’s heart. Peter, a blue collar, rough guy, he says, ‘Alright, Master, I fished all night and didn’t catch anything. But because You say so.’ Then, he pushes out. Probably his brother, Andrew, is with him in the boat. They push out. He gets the nets that he had been working on; he had been cleaning them. Then they push out. When they push out, Jesus says, ‘Throw the nets in.’ And Peter throws them in.

He catches so many fish that the boat starts sinking and the nets start breaking. He has to call to his partners, James and John, to bring their boat out. Jesus said, ‘Let me use your boat.’  Some of you are here this morning, and you think ‘Well, you know, I have asked Jesus into my boat. I am just not ready to let Him control where it goes. I am not sure that I trust HIm with the use of my boat. I would like for Him to be in my life. But I am not sure that I want Him to be in charge of my life.’  May I say this to you: Jesus is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all. Until you have given Him your all, you have entrusted your all to Him, He is really not Lord of your life. Wherever you are holding back, that is the very place that He is yet to be Lord in your life.

What we are talking about, specifically, now is your stuff. This is Peter’s boat. This is Peter’s business. This is what Peter does. He knows fishing. Peter know fishing. But Jesus knows more about fishing than Peter does. He takes his boat out.

Here are a few principles I want to draw from this, just the boat, that Peter let Jesus use his boat. Recognize God’s ownership and your stewardship.  Peter said, ‘What is mine, is Yours, Lord. Go ahead and use my boat.’ That is what he is essentially saying, ‘I went fishing all night, I didn’t catch anything. But because You say so, I will do it.’ Peter said, ‘You can use my boat. I am worn out. I was up all night. Let’s go. Let’s go.’ Peter says that Jesus is the owner, basically.

What does the word stewardship mean? It is another word for manager. It means you don’t own it, but you manage it for the owner. This will set you free. Trust me in this. If you will make the mental switch in your mind that it is not your stuff. It is God’s stuff. This will change you and set you free. ‘God (ahem), Your water heater needs fixed. God, Your car broke down. God, it’s Your stuff. I just take care of it for You. I just serve You with it. The stuff You have given me, You have given me so that I might serve You. But You gave me enough so that I have a place to live and food to eat. You take care of me. You have a purpose for my life. Use my boat. Use it however You want to; it is Your boat.’ That is the principle: God’s ownership.

If you make $100.00, how much of that $100.00 belongs to God? $10.00, right? That would be your tithe, right? No, wrong. The whole $100.00 belongs to God; the whole thing belongs to God. If God is owner, you are the manager of everything He gives you, not just a portion of it. Here is what the Bible says in Psalm 24:1 (NLT) “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him.” . Everything belongs to the Lord. The earth and all that is in it.

What is stewardship? God is owner; we are stewards. What is our part? What is that word imply? How do I practice it? The leadership guru, John Maxwell, describes it like this, “Stewardship is utilizing God-given abilities to manage God-given resources to accomplish God-ordained results.” God-given abilities, in other words, the talent He has given you. To manage God-given resources, in other words, the treasure, the possessions He has giving you to do what God ordained you to do, to work for Him. This is stewardship. This is stewardship. How do I practice it?

Here are three tips on how to practice stewardship:

1. Be a faithful tither.

What is a tithe? It’s the Bible word for 10%. A tithe is the first 10% of your income, to give that to the Lord. Why would you do that? Why would you give that to the Lord? Here is why: By being a faithful tither, you are saying, “God, as I give You this, I recognize that the whole 100% actually belongs to You. But now this action of tithing is an expression of my faith, that I really (and not just saying it with my mouth that you are Lord) am taking a faith action.” So, then the tithe becomes an act of worship.

That is why we have the offering buckets on the same table as The Lord’s Supper, so that when you come forward, you are able to bring your worship with you. You don’t come to a worship service; you bring your worship and we worship together. You don’t come here to get the worship team to build you up; you come together, each one of you, like a little coal of fire, and as we come together, the flame rises. You come forward, and you bring your worship, you bring your tithes and your offerings and your remember what Jesus did on the cross. He died for our sins, His body was broken and He shed His blood. You pray and hear God’s Word; it’s all worship.

Tithing is an act of worship. You are not giving it to the church; you are giving it back to God because He owns everything. It is an expression of faith. In the book of Leviticus, it says, “One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord. It must be set apart to Him as holy. If belongs to God.” Malachi 3 says, ” Will a man rob God, yet you are robbing Me. But you say, ‘How have I robbed You?’ In your tithes and contributions. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in My house and, thereby, put me to the test as the Lord of Hosts. If I will not open the windows of Heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

I can’t think of another place in the Bible where God says to test Him in this, give Him a test, give Him a 30-day tithing test to see if He doesn’t just open the floodgates for you. How can God bless you if He can’t trust you with what you have? See, God wants you to be a giver. What is the memory verse that most people in any church know, they know John 3:16. How does that verse go? “For God so loved the world that He gave…” “For God so loved the world that He gave…” The word, give, is in the Bible more than the word, love. Did you know that? God is a giving God. You are the body of Christ. As Christ followers, we are to be known as givers. Tithing breaks the grip of consumerism and materialism on our soul; it breaks it loose. It is the baby step of being a giver. It is the first step. It is not the end. It is the first step, the baby step. You know where I am going, right?

I want us to live the life of “the open hand.” God wants you to be a river not a reservoir. He wants you to open one hand to Him; it is appropriate to ask Him, ‘God, would You meet my needs? God, would You provide for me? God, if You will give me a job, I will work it for You. God, if You trust me with finances, if You trust me with a house or with a car, I will serve You with it. God, meet me needs.’ Stop shaking your fist at God and saying, ‘God, how come she got this, he got this and I didn’t get mine.’ Stop being that kind of person. Stop shaking your fist at God; you will never win that battle. Your arms are too short. God, meet my needs. I need Your help. But, see, that is not enough. If you have this hand closed, all you have done is dam it up downstream. God wants you to be river not a reservoir. He want you to “let it flow.”

So, as God meets your needs, now as He sees that you are a giver, He can trust you with more because He knows that you will be his representative on planet earth. You are a giver now. Tithing opens up your hand. It breaks the grip on your selfishness. It says, “I want to be a river and not a reservoir. I want to live the life of the open hand. It is all Your stuff, God, and I am using it for You.”

2. Be a generous giver.

Share what you have with others. Here is a radical idea: Live beneath your means. Live on less than you make. I know it is unheard of; it is one of the best kept secrets in financial management. Don’t spend more than you make. Less on less than you make. Live beneath your means. With the surplus, have some emergency money for a rainy day, in case something goes wrong, something breaks down (you lose your job or whatever) then you have surplus. Have a surplus, also, so that you help the needs of others. What? Yea. Exactly. That is what it means to be a river, not a reservoir.

God is trusting you with talent, He is trusting you with possessions and He wants you to use your stuff for Kingdom purpose. We have something in our church called Community Groups. These groups meet in homes during the week. We practice this rhythm in our church that we find in the book of Acts. The book of Acts says that they met in homes and in the temple courts. So, we meet from house to house and in temple courts. We get together on Sunday in a group. During the week, small groups get together in people’s homes. But guess what? Someone has to open their home. Someone has to let Jesus in their boat. ‘Ah, Gary, I am going to let Jesus in, but I don’t want you coming over.’ I know what you mean. When you open up your home, you never know what is going to happen. Plus, some of you are probably thinking, ‘My house is kind of a mess. I would have to clean up every week.’ Look, just move the stuff so people can get in. Spread it around a little bit. That is part of it; living authentically in fellowship with one another. If they feel really moved by everything, they might come over and help you clean up. There might be a pay back.

Share your stuff with other people. Say, “This is God’s house. This is God’s car.” If the car is so new and it still has that new car smell, some might say, ‘I can’t let anybody use that one.’ Maybe you should sell it and buy a used car. You can let it belong to Jesus. If it is too nice to help anybody, be careful of living the life of the closed hand.

Acts 4:32 says, “All the believers were united in heart and mind.” They felt that what they owned was not their own. So, they shared everything that they had. Make sure that what you own doesn’t own you. Because then it has become your god; then it has become idolatry. Be a generous giver. Be a faithful tither.

3. Be a frugal spender.

I was standing in the foyer after the first service, trying to greet as many people as I could. One lady came up to me and said, “I was doing really good until you got to that third tip.” She is a grandma. Her husband next to her said, “Yea, she was a frugal spender and then we had grandkids.” I went, “Amen!” My wife is sitting here this morning. I don’t know what has happened to her. She was such a frugal spender, a list maker and being so careful. And then we had grandkids. I don’t know what happened to her; please pray for us. We have more toys in the house now than we had when we had kids at home. We have more baby stuff and highchairs; there is a baby bed in our bedroom right now, people. I ask Robin, “Why is this baby bed in here?” She says, “Well, I keep Ryder on Thursdays.” I don’t remember us having a baby bed in our bedroom when we had our own kids here. There is stuff everywhere in my house. ‘Gary, you sound like you are complaining.’ I shouldn’t, should I? I am really blessed. But there is something wrong with my wife, you all pray about that.

Watch out, grandmas and grandpas. If Christ is in control then every spending decision is, also, a spiritual decision. Is that true? I don’t like it, but I think it is true. So, you go into a store, and you, hopefully, have a list. Hopefully, you have planned ahead; that is wise. Along the way, you see something that you didn’t even know you needed until you saw it. Right? ‘I didn’t know I needed that, but I think I need that more than anything on my list.’ Has this ever happened to you? I think I need that. Do you realize that that is a spiritual moment in your life, right there? That is a spiritual moment. This is men and women.

Now, in my relationship with my wife, my wife she’s a “nickel and dime” kind of spender. She doesn’t think she spent much because it was just in nickels and dimes. I will fuss at her, saying, “Honey, do you realize how much money you spent on the grandkids or other things?” She will reply, “I didn’t spend that much.” Then I will show it to her and then she sees that she did. But, here is what I will do. I will go two or three months and not spend anything and then go out and buy something big. Is it like that at your house? Men, if we go in, we come out with something big. So, I can blow it, too. I just blow it differently.

Do you pray about stuff before you buy it? Do you think about it? Now, Gary, you have gone from preaching to meddling; you have gone too far with this Christianity stuff. You are trying to act like everything in our life is connected to Christ. That is exactly what I am trying to get at, that every part of your life, if Christ is Lord, is connected to your spiritual life. So, every spending decision is, therefore, a spiritual decision.

Isaiah 55 says, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread? And your labor, for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good and delight yourselves in rich food.” The scripture is saying this, Why do you spend your money on stuff that doesn’t satisfy your soul? Come to Me and let Me give you food for your soul. We spend, spend, spend to try to fill the hole that we have in our soul but nothing satifies but Jesus.

Here is a great saying from the Great Depression; people who grew up in the Great Depression could be heard saying this or written on plaques in their houses. The saying is this, “Use it up or wear it out. Make it do or do without.” Have you ever heard that before? That is a well known saying from people from that generation. That is the generation that is passing away now. That generation figured it out. Use it up; use the last drop of it. Don’t throw the toothpaste away; there is some still in there; get that last drop out. We went through such a rough patch in our early married life, but sometimes a rough patch is God’s gift to us, so that we can get smart and get some wisdom.

I was a particular eater when I was young, very particular. I didn’t like for my food to touch. So, my uncle bought me a plate that had dividers and gave it to my family. I had to have my special plate when I was a little boy because I didn’t want my beans touching my pork chop. My dad would say to me, “Gary, it all ends up in the same place, son.” I would say, “But Daddy, I don’t want it to start in the same place. I don’t want my food to touch.” My Mom would fix some nice supper and I was say, “Eww.” She would say this to me, “You can eat it or starve.” That doesn’t sound very nice, does it?

We are the throw away generation. We throw away food and other stuff. Maybe, we should go back and look in our garages and our closets and see what we could give to someone who could find use of it. Stop throwing it away; start using it up.

Remember that little boy over there in the boy of John? Jesus had all of those people gathered just north of Caperneum where there were 5,000 men, which with women and children, it might have been 15 or 20,000 people. They were all there. Jesus had been preaching all day. They stayed and stayed; it was almost dark. The people were going to faint along the way as they were going home because they hadn’t eaten all day. The disciples were told about this problem; Phillip says, “It would take a year’s wages to feed all of these people, Lord. How are we going to feed all of these people?” Jesus told them, “You feed them.”

So, Andrew (he is the disciple that was always bringing people to Jesus), brings a little boy with a packed lunch to Jesus. Andrews says, “Lord, I have found a little boy who has some food.” I can see Peter over there saying, ‘That is really going to help.’ One packed lunch; how is that going to help? The little boy brings his food to Jesus; he had five barley loaves (which is the poor man’s loaf) and two fishes. He gave them to Jesus. Jesus lifted them up and broke the bread and He prayed the Hebrew prayer. Jesus begins to put the food into the baskets. The disciples distributed the food to the people sitting it in groups; when they had finished eating all that they could eat, Jesus told the disciples to go gather what was left over. They gathered 12 baskets full of leftovers.

You see, when you give Jesus what little bit you have, He can multiply it. When you keep it, He can’t. When you trust Jesus with it, He can multiply it. One of things I like to do is sit with my wife at church. We get to go to church together occasionally when she is not serving in the band. Every two weeks we get paid around here; I like to write my tithe check, writing it early in the week. Sometimes I write “I Love You, Jesus” on the check. I will stick my tithe check on the dresser in my bedroom; my wife sees it and knows that that is our tithe. This is like a reminder all of that week. Then, at the Lord’s Supper, my wife will come up with me; what we try to do is put both of our hands on our tithe, putting it in the bucket together, and saying, “God, multiply this for Your kingdom’s use, for Your purpose. It is not much, but it is our tithe. You multiply it because You are God, so that we can reach people in Wilson county and eastern North Carolina and around the world.” It becomes, then, a my little lunch and I just that little boy that puts it in the hands of Jesus. It then becomes an act of worship. You do it however you feel called. I know that some of you do it online and do it different ways. But this is my little story how it is worship for me and for my wife.

2. Serve Christ faithfully with your work.

So, we talked about the boats. Now, let’s talk about the nets. Here is Peter; he is on the beach washing his nets. What were the nets? They were the tools of his trade. He had been fishing all night and didn’t catch anything, but he is not giving up. He is on the beach and he is washing his nets. Nets have to be washed so they can’t be seen by the fish; if a fish sees the net, the fish will not go in the net. So, you have to clean the net, getting the algae out and mend wherever the net tore. Even when they are not fishing, they are working on fishing if that is your business.

Can you picture this? Here is Peter, on the beach. He worked all night and didn’t catch anything. He has this boring job of cleaning the nets. Here comes this carpenter, this rabbi, “Can I use your boat?” he says. Peter says back, ‘Well, it’s not like I am doing anything here, but, ok.’ He didn’t really say that; this is just the way Gary thinks. Maybe you don’t think that way. Peter probably didn’t. But I would be like, ‘Can’t you see here that I am busy cleaning the nets?’ But, no, he made whatever Jesus wanted to do his job.

Here is the principle that I see. Make Christ your boss. I don’t know who you work for. Maybe you are the owner. If you are the owner, make Him the owner. If you work for someone, if you work for Firestone, BB&T, you work for the city or wherever you work, in your heart and in your mind say that really your employer is Jesus. He just uses the company that I work for as a vehicle to provide for me. But the truth is, I work for Jesus. That is like a mental decision. I work for Jesus. Christ is my employer.

Look at Colossians 3:23 (NIV), “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Whatever you do; I don’t know what you do, but whatever you do, work at it with passion, with all your heart. Not for men but for Jesus. Why? So that He gets the glory. You might be thinking, ‘Well, you mean Peter could be a fisherman for Jesus?’ Yes!

And then Jesus will take your vocation and He will explode it and make you a fisher of men. He wants to use whatever you are, whatever you do. your vocation. You are a teacher, you are a secretary , you are a boss, you work for the city or you work for a bank. Whatever you do, Christ wants you to serve Him there. He wants you to trust Him with your vocation. Many people will say, ‘If only I weren’t living here. If I had that kind of job. If I was over here.’ That is the wrong way to think. Start with what you have.

Here are a couple of principles about making Jesus your boss.

– Start with what you have.

Remember the widow lady in the sermon last week? Elisha asked her what she had in her house. She said she had a little bit of oil. He says, ‘Let’s start with that.’ What the Lord said to Moses, Moses said, “I can’t speak. I can’t be a leader. I am eighty years old. I am too old. I am not a good speaker.” Moses had all of these excuses and the Lord said to him, “What’s that in your hand?” Hmmm, it’s a shepherd’s staff. The Lord used that.

Here is what God wants to say to you. He wants to use you right where you are. He wants you to start with what you have. You don’t need something else. You don’t need a new gift, a new tool, a new….Start with what you have. If, you will be faithful with that, then He will trust you with more.

– Be faithful in the little things and the Lord will trust you with bigger things.

Look at Matthew; it says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness.” Be faithful in the little things. Do the little things.

I used to work for a drug store chain, the Eckerd Drug Company. I was with them almost twelve years before I answered the call to the ministry. I remember, when I first got the job, I was a management trainee. I would go to see my Uncle Clyde, the president of First Virginia Bank. He was the uncle I went to see whenever I needed something. My father died when I was eight years old, so, if I needed something financially I would go to him. He was asking me about my new job and I said to him, “Man, you know, I am in the management trainee program and they have got me cleaning commodes, mopping floors and sweeping. They have got me unloading trucks and it doesn’t feel like management.” I was kinda complaining to him a little bit. He tells me, “Son, let me tell you something. I started out as a teller in the bank and now I am the president. If the man tells you to sweep, you be the best sweeper he has, if he tells you to mop, you become an expert at mopping.”

Be faithful in the little things and God will trust you with bigger things. Start with where you are and what you have. Don’t think you are too important or too big to start there. Start with what you have. Be faithful in the little things.

This is our 25th anniversary, celebrating tonight. This church started out with me inviting about 40 people to my house on November of 1991. I knew about 40 people and I called them or I talked to them personally, inviting them to a meeting. It happened in my living room on November 17, 1991. I had a flip chart and I had refreshements. I was nervous. I wanted to plant this church and I am inviting these people. Only 15 people came. I passed index cards around after I gave the big presentation. I told them I was planting a church and asked them what they thought about the name Wilson Community Church. I collected the index cards afterwards. Ten people said they were interested in helping us plant a new church. I contacted the original 40 plus the 15 who showed, even only ten of them said they wanted to help.

I said, “Let’s start a bible study at my house next week.” I was fired up. That following week, five people came to the first bible study. We had seven counting me and Robin; and I counted me and Robin. We had seven people at our first bible study. That was in the fall of 1991. Over the next three months, as we were faithful to meet weekly, God added to our number. We were averaging about 25-26 people between three small groups after about three months. That is when we decided to plant the church. We started renting Forest Hills Middle School on January 26, 1992, 25 years ago.

Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. If you are faithful and you don’t give up, God will bring the increase. Success is not up to you. Faithfulness is up to you. He didn’t call you to be successful, He called you to be faithful. Be faithful with what you have. Be faithful with the little things.

– Focus on faithfully serving Jesus.

Focus on faithfully serving Jesus, trusting HIm with the results. Don’t be focusing on the results; focus on being faithful to Jesus.

Look what Galatians says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.” I have had young church planters come and they want the old guy to coach them. ‘Tell us about the early days when you first planted the church. What is your spiritual gift? What is your secret? How did you plant this church? What is your greatest gift? What is your secret?’ they would ask. Do you know what I tell them? I didn’t quit. God wouldn’t let me quit so I didn’t quit. I asked Him if I could quit several times, usually on a Monday.

There was that Sunday, back in the early 90’s, when I forgot to take up the offering. We used to have the deacons come forward and take up the offering. We started out old school; I used to wear a suit and tie. I wasn’t wearing blue jeans like I do today. We did things differently back in those days. I forgot to take up the offering. The deacons were in the back waving at me while I was closing on the benediction. They were jumping up and down and waving at me; I was so aggravated at them. I was thinking that those guys were trying to distract me. Well, they were trying to get me to remember to take up the offering. So, I didn’t get paid that week. Those kind of things used to happen in the early days.

But you don’t quit. Be faithful. Don’t give up. The results are up to God. Be faithful in your marriage. Be faithful at what God has called you to do. When hard times get to you, be faithful, because He will bring it to fruition. Never dig up in doubt what you planted by faith.

3. Make following Christ your life’s pursuit.

Now we are talking about the fish. We talked about the boats. We talked about the nets. What about the fish? You see, Peter was a professional fisherman, right? Peter knew fishing. But Jesus knew more about fishing than Peter did. Would you agree? Peter is like, ‘Lord, we fished all night and didn’t catch anything.’ And he goes out there and he gets the biggest catch he has ever had in his entire career. And he yells to the shore, ‘Guys, come out here!’

Then, James and John, they get in their boat and they come out there and their boat starts sinking. Both boats are so full that they are both sinking and their nets are ripping. Maybe it crossed Peter’s mind that if they sell all of this fish he may not ever have to fish again. But, he didn’t focus on the results. He looked at Jesus and fell down at His feet. He said, “Lord, part from me, for I am a sinner. I am a sinful man. I don’t deserve to have you in my life.” Peter knew Jesus was a great teacher. Peter knew Jesus was a great rabbi. But, at that moment he knew Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God because only He could have performed such a miracle. Peter said, ‘I am  afraid.’ Jesus said, ‘Peter, don’t be afraid.’ I will make you a fisher of men. You think this is something? Come follow Me and wait until you see the adventure that we are going on.

You trust Me with your vocation, you trust Me with your possessions, with everything that you have and everything that you are. We are going to go on a journey. I have a purpose for your life; I am going to make you a fisher of men. Do you know what Peter did? He left everything and followed Jesus.

I am not going to soften that because I don’t know what that means for you. For some of you, it’s just a matter of a mental decision that He is going to call you to stay where you are. But for some of you, He is actually going to ask you to go somewhere else. He is going to ask you to move. We have had people from our church answer the call to go to parts of the world. To go to Egypt, Indonesia and Uganda to be ministers there, selling everything they have and go. We’ve got crazy people that are moving to Rocky Mount to help us with the church plant that we are planting there. I say crazy; crazy in the world’s eyes but wise in the Lord’s. They are willing to trust God with everything.

I don’t know what God is calling you to do. Money is a good servant but it’s a terrible master. Make Jesus your master. Financial freedom is a means to an end. He says, “Lord, I am not worthy.” Listen, give the Lord everything in your life. He can manage your business better than you can. He is a better tire maker than those of you that work at Firestone. He is a better banker than those of you that work at BB&T. Whatever you think you are good at, He is better. Give it to Him. Give it to Him. What are you holding back? The place that you are still withholding control from Jesus is the place that He is not Lord. If He is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all. Put Him charge of everything in your life today. What are you holding back? Will you give it to Him? Let’s pray. “