The Lesson of Day One
When I was 19 years old I dropped out of college to start a Christian radios station in my small hometown. By everyone’s account, I was a fool. Some said it to my face; others whispered it behind my back. My grades were fine, my tuition was paid for, I had every reason to stay, but the Lord said, “Go,” and I knew I needed to obey.
I had to leave everything behind except the clothes on my back. I arrived in town early on a Sunday morning, and Monday got to work. Not knowing what to do, and with no particular plan, I went straight to the #1 radio station offices on the outskirts of town. The owner was in and gave me a full tour of his studios. He was a very generous man and even offered me a job making advertisements for him. Things were going great, but I made a mistake - I didn’t tell him what I was really up to. I was afraid he would sense competition and shut the door to me.
As I left the studio that morning and drove across town to my home, my immediate elation at the morning’s success soon turned to despair. I felt an oppressive weight on my chest. I knew the Lord was speaking to me. I felt Him say so clearly, “If you’re going to work for me, son, you’re going to do things my way.”
I knew what the Lord wanted, but I didn’t like it. I still remember the stake in my craw as I picked up the phone, dialed the radio station owner, and said, “I need to apologize to you. I lied to you this morning. I’m not in town to find work, I’m here to start a Christian radio station.” Silence. I expected he would flatten me like a spider. I was absolutely sure that every chance I had of succeeding on this mission had evaporated, all because I had done things my own foolish way.
After a few agonizing moments, he spoke. “Steve, I can’t believe you said that. You know, I have gotten serious about the Lord this year, and I have been thinking about converting my local oldies radio station into a Christian station, but I have no idea how to do it. Would you be willing to help me?”
That was day one of that adventure. “K-Dove” was on the air for twelve years. It beamed the good news into that town in a fresh way, it made jobs for local people, and it gave this 19-year-old fool tales of wonder for a lifetime. That next fall, I was back in school. I doubled up on classes and somehow managed to finish my undergraduate degree 4 years from the day I started. The Lord provided. Sometimes I forget that it ever happened, but it did. The Lord did it!
There are others here who have similar stories of bold and apparently foolish faithfulness. Some of you gave up everything to live in a dangerous foreign land. Others of you have had the courage to leave a job, or to stand up to your family, or to help plant a church. All of you are foolishly faithful enough to be here this morning when you could be a thousand more comfortable places!
But the lesson of day one -- when the Lord held me to the fire for lying -- that lesson remains with me -- “If you’re going to work for Me, you’re going to do things My way.”
Today we read about the twelve going to work for Jesus. These were the very first ones sent by the Master to do something that looked very foolish in the eyes of the world. They blazed the trail for each of us who have also followed Jesus into unknown territory - and the instructions the Master gave to them are given here so that they will echo in the hearts of those of you who have heard the call and are being sent out at this time in God's history.
As I read this story, three principles leap from the page and grab hold of my heart.
The Lord’s Purposes
First are the Lord’s purposes, right there in verse 2: “He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” He sent his people to do two things -- the only two that mattered: to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. To put it another way, Jesus wants His followers to address both the spiritual and the physical needs of the people they meet. They are called to lead souls to God and to extend compassion to their fellow man. Heart to God, hand to man. Love God, and love neighbor.
Does your life have a purpose? It surely does, but you may have forgotten or misplaced it through the years. Your life’s purpose is to love God and love your fellow man. How each of us lives out that purpose looks different. Some are teachers, some are servants. Some are nurturers and some are providers. We have many different gifts and functions, but one thing that binds us all together is this wonderful, common, twofold purpose -- to love God and to love our fellow man. Nothing else matters, you see. We don’t get to be here long. At the end of your days, these two marks will be the only ones on your scorecard.
How many times have we neglected those two greatest commandments, clouding the air with our own cross-purposes? We think our primary purpose is to provide for our family, but that’s not it. We think our first purpose is to save for retirement, or build a church. But that’s not it either. Your highest purpose is to love God and love your neighbor. Everything else is incidental. Don’t confuse your job with your purpose. Don’t confuse your role with your purpose.
Importantly for this church today, we must constantly be on our guard against the tragic human tendency build religious monuments and codify churchly activities that do not ultimately serve these two purposes of the Holy Spirit - to preach the gospel and to heal the sick. The church exists for only two reasons: to address spiritual needs and physical needs. Those two purposes may spawn derivatives such as worship, evangelism, ministry, fellowship and discipleship. But it all goes back to these two: heart to God, hand to man.
We must avoid the mistakes of the churches of the past that have multiplied false purposes and confiscated the Lord’s true mission for His people. Young people, I am speaking to you because your vision is still clear: you must never be afraid to ask, “Why do we do this thing? Does it serve the Lord’s purposes?” And if an activity does not in some clear way serve these the Master’s two prime purposes, then it is fit for the fire. We have barely enough time to do what needs to be done. Let’s not hesitate to let go of every manmade purposes that distract us from the true purposes of God. Hear what the Spirit is saying: “If you’re going to work for Me, you’re going to have to do it My way.”
The Lord’s Provision
Next, I can’t help but be struck by the instructions the Master gives about His provision. Have you ever overpacked for a trip? You think you might need that pair of dress shoes, that extra outfit, that new gadget - but it ends up just wasting valuable space. And sometimes we pack the things we don’t actually need, and then forget the things we really do. You brought those guilt-books you will never actually read, but somehow forgot to pack your underwear!
When it comes to serving the Lord, you are always overpacked.
The disciples are practically stripped bare as they are sent out. They can’t even take a bag or an extra shirt. The Lord is teaching them something about His provision - that He will be their source of strength and support. He is driving them to depend on Him completely.
Sometimes we think the Lord needs the stuff we have. He doesn’t. Sometimes we think the Lord needs us. He doesn’t! He doesn’t need your money or your skills or your ambitions. When it comes to fulfilling His purposes, your assets and your ego will only get in the way. If you follow Him, you are going to do marvelous things, but it will not be because of anything you bring to the table. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.” (Zech 4.6) Whatever wonderful and amazing purposes He accomplishes through you, it is going to be by His might, by His power, and by His Spirit.
Self-sufficiency is the number one killer of faith. The Holy Spirit might have to strip you of everything you hold dear to drive that lesson of dependence home. Some of us are in the middle of that process right now. And it can hurt! But friend, we must be ready to lay down anything we think we have in an instant if that is what the master calls for. It all belongs to Him anyway! The scriptures say that “Every good and perfect gift is from …” Amazon? Walmart? Higher Education? Your own hard work? No - none of the above. James 1.17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
Knowing that He is the author of your provision, you can cling tightly to the Lord and hold very loosely to the things of this world. (See Joshua 23.8-11) The Lord is your strength. His provision is what you really need, and never your own self-sufficiency. Hear what the Spirit is saying to you this morning: “If you’re going to work for Me, you’re going to have to do it My way.”
The Lord’s ‘Proval
Finally, Jesus concludes his commissioning of the twelve with some very hard words dealing with rejection. Can you imagine anyone rejecting this road show? Miracles, healings, good news -- what’s not to love?
Plenty. Especially when that good news means we have to change our ways. Not everyone wants to hear the truth. We all say we want the truth, but when we’re confronted with it, mpost of us run away in fear. You want the truth? We can’t handle the truth. The truth always asks something of us that we are not willing to give up. The truth is not popular or welcome. It doesn’t sell newspapers or books. And therefore, anyone who is faithful to the truth will become well acquainted with the sorrow of rejection.
If you are faithful to the purposes of God, you will face rejection. But as I read the scriptures, I perceive that the Lord doesn’t want you to give the rejection of the world a second thought. It is His approval, not theirs, that we require. Shake the dust off your feet. Walk on. There’s another town just a few clicks up the road. Maybe they will be receptive. But if they aren’t, there is no need to take it personally. They aren’t rejecting you; they are rejecting the one who sent you. It is His approval you should seek.
It’s hard isn’t it? We all want to be accepted -- to win the approval of the people we meet. But what does it profit you to gain the approval of the world and lose the approval of God? Stand firm, my friend, and on the last day you will hear Him say, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’” (Matthew 25.21)
The Lord has a purpose for you - it is the same purpose he has for each of His children: to share the good news and to heal the world around you. He requires both, by the way. We are not to be lopsided in our obedience, embracing the one while neglecting the other. You can’t be a witness who is so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good. And by the same token, you cannot be a do-gooder who is so earthly minded that you do no spiritual good.
Can you hear Him? The master is speaking to you this morning. “I have plans for you... (Jane. John. Etc.) But if you’re going to work for Me, you’re going to have to do it My way.” Let’s go on from here in the footsteps of the twelve who went before -- not perfect, but ready, willing, and obedient to the Master.