Weekly Sermon: Are You Ready?

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Are You Ready?’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 7/27/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1mZDiQD

We’re all preparing for something. Whether it’s meeting the man or woman of your dreams, having a family, or landing that big promotion at work, we all want to be ready for whatever comes our way. What does your process for preparing look like? How will you know when you’re finally prepared? Are you going to decide you’re ready for whatever comes next, or are you going to let someone else make that decision for you?

Many of us are chronically under-prepared. And we know it! More than 2 out of 5 high school graduates don’t feel prepared for the next stage of their lives, whether that means college or work. Others of us are constantly judged as under-prepared by the people around us. Last year, two-thirds (66%!!!) of hiring managers at major corporations said they have no plans to hire brand new college graduates because they didn’t they were well prepared for the workplace. Do you suffer unnecessarily because the people you need to know you’re prepared constantly underestimate you?

Are You Ready?

So what are you preparing for? Whenever we prepare for a major life event, we’re faced with two major questions: 1) Am I ready, and 2) How do I get ready? I’d like to propose answers to those questions that are somewhat counter-intuitive. You don’t decide when you’re ready. God does. And the best way to prepare for whatever comes your way just might mean putting down the study guide and ditching the instruction manual.

There is a myth to which many of us have fallen subject. We think our preparation has to be perfect in order for life to turn out how we want it to. But the reality is quite different. Our preparation can never be perfect. But God’s can! Whenever we find ourselves in a difficult situation by chance, God simply asks us to use the tools we’ve been given in the context into which He has placed us. Whenever we get ready to walk into a difficult situation on purpose, we need to know that it’s ok to feel unprepared.

Randy Clark has an expression of which I’m particularly fond: faith is spelled “R-I-S-K.” Randy didn’t build a ministry around waiting to step out in faith until he felt 100% prepared; he made God famous by stepping out when he wasn’t sure what would happen. So many of us live by feel (do I feel ready?) when we should be living by faith (does God say I’m ready?). How you feel actually isn’t important at all; what’s important is what the Bible says about your situation!

I left a career in finance a few years ago to pursue full-time ministry. I worked for 5 years on a Risk Arbitrage trading desk at a major bank, and I had more than a few uncomfortable experiences where I was thrown into a situation and felt completely unprepared. Six months into the job, fresh out of college, the rest of the trading team around me quit. The head trader, the head of the desk, and our research analyst just walked away to take better jobs at a different firm. I was left there alone to trade a product that usually requires years of experience – bright eyed, bushy tailed, and absolutely scared out of my mind. So what did I do? Request a transfer? Hide under my desk? I don’t think so. I seized the bull by the horns and did the absolute best I could: and got promoted because of it.

When I was still working full-time in finance, I started talking with our Lead Pastor about starting a Sunday morning service at a new location. I had no idea how to pastor a church; and I had a full-time job that demanded 60+ hours per week of my time. But I knew God had called me to pastor. He had shown me visions of a packed sanctuary: not only with people, but also with His Presence. I had no idea what I was doing or how the new service would go, but I signed up for it because God had showed me it was exactly what He wanted me to do.

Those experiences – despite the fact that I was scared out of my mind and completely unprepared – were some of the most valuable things I have done in life. God showed me the vision He had for me, and I chose to accept it. I decided to value His plans for me above the limitations the people around me wanted to use to confine me. I decided to ignore the lie that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or well-prepared, and step into my destiny.

How Do You Get Ready?

How was I ready for those situations? Our preparation process in life is incredibly important. First off, we should always plan and prepare in advance. That’s the reason I start out every single day with prayer. If I pray first, and I give it everything I have: all the attention and energy I can muster. Then, when I find myself in a tough spot, I’ve already seen the resolution because God has showed it to me in prayer.

The best way to prepare for any situation in life is completely counter-intuitive: you can’t learn it in school, and it doesn’t come from a diploma or a title. We should always prepare for every situation in life by diving into God’s Word. We all have questions in life that only God can answer. What are His promises for me? Over whom and what has He given me authority? Who and what has He called me to be? Who sets the standard for what’s going to happen in your life, and who you’re going to become: the people around you, or God Himself?

God wants us to have the confidence that He will back us up in any and every situation. Before Jesus hung and died on the Cross, He sat His disciples down and told them about the suffering they would face. But He didn’t give them a book to read, or a script to follow. He gave them advice that would throw every single Type-A personality for a loop:

But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. – Mk 13:9-11

Seems too easy, doesn’t it? Jesus acknowledges that His disciples will literally put their lives on the line for the sake of the Gospel. And how should they defend themselves? They shouldn’t! The Holy Spirit would give them words to speak exactly when they needed right then – not one second before, and not one instant after. God wants us to know that He will always give us the tools we need to succeed in every situation. When we believe in His Word and trust His provision, He will never leave us high and dry!

God’s Holy Spirit makes us ready for situations we wouldn’t otherwise be able to face. He keeps us standing when it should be impossible, and gives us words to speak when we should be dumbfounded. So, if you don’t feel like you’re ready for the next stage of your life…good! That means God will step in for you and make you ready. Once we step to the side and let Him work on our behalf, amazing things will start to happen.

Young & Inexperienced

Early in his reign, Solomon was recognized as the wisest king to have ever lived. He wasn’t exactly struggling for money either. But Solomon didn’t always have it so good. In fact, his own dad admitted he was young & inexperienced before he took the throne! That’s not exactly the vote of confidence most of us would like before we take a promotion. Let’s take a look:

Now David said, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries. I will now make preparation for it.” So David made abundant preparations before his death. – 1 Chron 22:5

Solomon was young & inexperienced! But his father David had been making preparation for his ascension to the throne. David prepared as much as he could so that Solomon could step into his calling as the man who would finish God’s holy temple. Like it or not, people have been sowing into you your entire life. If you’re scared or unprepared, think about someone who’s had an impact on you. How would they handle the situation? How did they prepare you for it? What resources are already at your disposal that you can use to manage and overcome the situation you’re in?

Then he called for his son Solomon, and charged him to build a house for the Lord God of Israel.  And David said to Solomon: “My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house to the name of the Lord my God; but the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have made great wars; you shall not build a house for My name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in My sight. Behold, a son shall be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies all around. His name shall be Solomon, for I will give peace and quietness to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son, and I will be his Father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’ – 1 Chron 22:6-10

Solomon was young & inexperienced! But he wasn’t building the temple simply because David had ordained it. He definitely wasn’t building the temple just because he felt like it. Solomon built the temple because God had ordained it. And you’re going to succeed at whatever it is God has called you to do: not because you feel like it or someone else asked you to, but because God ordained it!

Now, my son, may the Lord be with you; and may you prosper, and build the house of the Lord your God, as He has said to you. Only may the Lord give you wisdom and understanding, and give you charge concerning Israel, that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. – 1 Chron 22:11-12

Solomon was the wealthiest and wisest king the world had ever seen. God made him that way because of a simple request. God came to Solomon in a dream when he was a young king, and told him to ask for anything in the world! What did he ask for?

Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours? – 2 Chron 1:10

We read that verse and we marvel at Solomon’s restraint and patience. He could have asked for anything in the world, but he just asked for wisdom and knowledge?! Why would he settle for that?

He asked for wisdom and knowledge because his father David prayed that he would have it (see 1 Chron 22:11-12 above). Solomon tailored his request based on what his wise father had spoken into his life. And guess what? Jesus has already prayed that you would ask for more of His Holy Spirit. So ask! And once you’re filled, ask the Holy Spirit what you should pray! Just as David told Solomon what to pray for, the Holy Spirit will tell us what to pray for too when we ask! The result will be a life full of purpose, prosperity and fulfilled promises.

 

Paul’s Advice to Timothy

Timothy was another man who was labeled as young & inexperienced. He wasn’t a king like Solomon, but he still found that label interfering with the calling God had put on his life. So Paul gave him some forceful advice:

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. – 1 Tim 4:12-14

Paul told Timothy to ignore the biting criticism and chiding comments that he was just too young. I’ve been there! I was 26 when I became a pastor, and I’ve sat with some people who’ve told me to my face that I’m just too young to be a pastor. I’ve watched some others walk out the church doors and never look back because of my age. But that’s ok. I’ve never let anyone despise my youth. I’m not a pastor because I’m intelligent and experienced: I’m a pastor because God called me into full-time ministry. And the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable!

Paul is literally telling Timothy not to let anyone look down on him because he’s young. But the figurative meaning is much deeper. Paul is speaking to Timothy about experience. He’s encouraging Timothy to embrace his calling. There’s always going to be someone who has more experience than you. There’s always someone who’s stronger, faster and better. And there’s always someone who wants that promotion more than you do. But you are anointed by God for a specific purpose. No one can get in the way of that calling, and nobody can change that fate. Just as the elders had anointed Timothy for his ministry, God has anointed YOU!

God’s Only Son

Even Jesus Christ Himself wasn’t completely comfortable with the calling on His life. How do we know that? Because the night before His death, He knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane and asked God to remove the burden He was about to bear from His shoulders:

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.’ Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. – Lk 22:41-43

Immediately after His prayer, God sent an angel to strengthen Him. And immediately after you pray, God’s Holy Spirit will strengthen you!

Jesus was not who the Jews were expecting. He was too young & inexperienced to be the Messiah who was supposed to come. Israel was waiting for a literal king who would establish a provincial government and rescue the Jewish people from Roman enslavement. Instead, He arrived as a wise King who refused to take the world by force, but instead rescued it through sacrifice.

Jesus didn’t let others’ opinions hold Him back. He stepped into His calling and redeemed all of mankind to a loving Father because He took hold of everything God showed Him in prayer:

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. – Jn 5:19-20

Are you going to let other peoples’ false perceptions of who you should be hold you back? Or are you going to take hold of everything God has shown you in prayer?

Be Prepared

Make the decision to be prepared today. You don’t need a diploma on the wall to tell everyone you’re ready; you simply need to stand on the vision and the promises God has already given you. Don’t let the other people tell you you’re not ready for something God has prepared you to do. Don’t let others’ perceptions of you determine who you will become.

Don’t let the enemy convince you you’re not ready for everything God has in store for you. You’re ready – not because of anything you’ve done, but because God has made you ready!

- by Pastor Michael White

© Michael D. White and CityLight Church, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael White and CityLight Church with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.