Monday, January 26, 2009

This Week's Sermon: Ready to serve.

Acts 21:1-17.
Are you ready? Americorps, Politicians, Search and Rescue, Minute Rice all claim to be ready to serve. This morning I want us to ask ourselves if we are ready to serve. What does it mean to be ready to serve? For some it means being trained and educated. For some it means having enough experience. For food it means the preparation is done. I want to explore what it takes for us to be ready to serve God.

I often feel inadequate. When I first came to serve here, I definitely felt unprepared. My knowledge and my training were really untested. It all sounded good in theory, but I hadn’t put it into practice on my own. I was willing to serve, I had been called to serve and even though I felt unprepared, in my heart I was ready to serve.

We all feel unprepared at times. Often we are called upon to serve without being fully prepared. Becoming a new parent. Embarking on a marriage relationship. Starting a new position at work. All of these can make us feel ill-equipped. The same can be true of serving God. We may not feel prepared and equipped. We may feel completely inadequate. But the key is not always in the education and experience. Our resume has little to do with whether we are ready to serve God. What matters is that we are willing to face whatever comes. In Acts 21:1-17, we find that the readiness that counts is readiness of heart.

Paul’s friends and disciples tell him not to go. Both here in Ceaserea and before at Tyre and before that in the last chapter in his meeting with the Ephesian Elders, they all say the same thing. Paul knows he is headed into a storm, into trouble and persecution. He knows he will not be back, and those he has led to faith are telling him not to go. Why would anyone keep traveling a road that they knew would lead them to captivity and death? But Paul says they are breaking his heart by asking him to stay. Paul says he is ready to face whatever comes. How could he be ready? No one could possibly be prepared for that kind of future.

You have been studying Acts with me, did you see the part where Paul took a seminar on how to bravely march into the face of death? Did he spend a summer interning at the die for Jesus boot camp? No, he didn’t have any training or education to get equipped for his future. What he did have was a relationship with the God who saved him from himself. He had come to know the Jesus who had stopped him on the road to Damascus and instead of striking him dead in retribution for the persecution ring he was running, Jesus knocked Paul off his feet and introduced himself. Paul had been following Jesus as his Lord and God for a couple of decades and he had seen God at work. He had seen miracles and wonders, and witnessed the greatest wonder of all: the changed life. Paul was not trained and equipped to serve God even in the face of death, but he was ready.

Paul’s readiness was a result of the condition of his heart. He knew God, he knew Jesus, he knew the Holy Spirit and he loved them enough to sacrifice greatly in their service. Sacrifice seems like such a giant word until we realize that we make choices to sacrifice all the time. People will sacrifice something valuable for something they see as more important. Parents sacrifice sleep in order to care for the needs of a new baby. Service men and women sacrifice their time, their relationships, and sometimes their lives to serve something they see as greater than themselves. Missionaries sacrifice everything from their former lives to go and tell others about Jesus.

Sacrifice is all about priorities; not just in the big things, but the small things as well. No one will fulfill their New Year’s Resolution to loose weight this year without sacrificing some calories. No one will get any office work done if they don’t sacrifice their chance to get high score on minesweeper. And no one will step out in faith and service to God without sacrificing something.

Are you ready? What is God calling you to do? Maybe He is calling you to do something small, like step out in faith to tithe or give to missions. Maybe He is calling you to help with an area of ministry within the church. Maybe He is calling you to step out in faith and tell those around you about the hope, the peace, and the joy to be found in this new life in Christ. So often our greatest excuse is that we aren’t prepared. Maybe the truth is that we aren’t ready in our hearts.

So how do we get there? How do we get ready, if it isn’t a matter of taking a class or attending a seminar? Like Paul, we find ourselves ready when we spend time getting to know God. When we know him, when we take time to see him in action, then we see that no matter how great the sacrifice we make in service to him, it is nothing compared to the glory of living in his kingdom.

Are you ready? Are you ready to serve? If God is calling you this morning, are you willing to step out in faith and obedience? I hope the answer is yes. If not, I hope you will take steps to grow closer in your walk with him, to fall more in love with him. Spend time in his word. Spend time with him in prayer. If we could all come to that place of being ready in our hearts, there is nothing that God couldn’t do through us to build his kingdom. Let’s pray.

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