Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 4th October, 2020
We were talking last week about having faith for the future – and that included having faith and imparting faith to the generations coming after us – positioning ourselves in a place where we are actively encouraging, blessing, building up and strengthening our children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren.
And it’s not just our own biological children that we want to bless, but those to which we can be spiritual mums and dads and grandparents.
If we’re believing for a future that is full of hope, then we need to be sowing hope into the light bearers of the future.
So I’ve been thinking a lot more about that.
And I remember a message I preached – it must be quite a few years ago, although the theme has continued to pop up regularly…. But it was about “Making Room.”
At the time, it included making room through the major renovations we were doing on this building. It wasn’t so much about what was happening to the building itself – it was more about making room for babies, children, families and all of us really.
We created a mother’s room, and babies started appearing. We created new Kid’s church rooms, and more children started coming. We created a nice cafe area, and most of you guys had to be practically pushed out the door on a Sunday morning.
It revealed to us just how important it is to make room for the things we value and the things we believe God is putting on our heart.
But we had some biblical foundations and principles to build upon which is why we saw such good fruit.
I’m bringing that up again today because having faith for the future is about making room for God to move – and first of all, we have to make room for Him in our own hearts.
I’m learning as I go along, that our capacity to be filled and to contain the things of God is actually without limits.
And I’ve learnt also that when you make room for God – He floods in with abundance and overwhelming grace.
New King James Version
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
And in the Passion:
The Passion Translation
“Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.
21 Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ—and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity. Amen!”
I think it’s appropriate to bring up this biblical theme of making room again, especially as we try to make sense of what just happened in 2020 – how it has deeply affected every one of us – how it has caused each of us to go deeper within ourselves particularly in relation to our walk with God – and how we then see the church – experience church – as we look to the future.
I like it because making room flies directly in the face of the restrictions caused by Covid-19.
This year has caused tension – but it’s also created opportunity – it’s brought us to our knees – it’s shaken our mindsets – it’s changed the world we live in – but it has definitely caused us to face the question – what does it mean now to make room for the new things God wants to do in and through us?
Throughout history God has made sure that generation after generation of His people never get lost in their place of complacency and comfortability.
We know only too well how 2020 has prodded us out of that place.
But even in the early days of the church, there was the danger of the Jewish disciples dragging their old religious rules and laws into their new life in Christ.
And I believe this has something to say to us today.
They were comfortable with their religious ways. And as much as their lives were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which then passed on to new Jewish converts as well, the old was hard to leave behind.
It brings us to the story of Peter – when he was in the city of Joppa. He was praying and was given a vision of a great sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it contained all these four footed animals, wild beasts, creeping things and birds of the air.
All these things were regarded as unclean by the Jews and they were forbidden from eating them. But a voice came from heaven and said to Peter to “rise, kill and eat.” And when Peter objected, the voice said – “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”
This vision came to Peter repeatedly.
New King James Version
“At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”
18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
This was an incredible turning point in the life of the church.
The vision of the sheet filled with unclean animals was one thing. It was a massive challenge to Peter’s mindsets. But it was only a lead up to God then saying – I’ve now included all people into the gift of life in Christ Jesus. None are unclean – none are to be excluded.
What has this got to do with 2020?
God doesn’t shake up the church for no reason.
The pandemic is a consequence of a broken and sick world that has walked away from God. But He has allowed His church to also be impacted.
So what is He saying to us? And how do we now make room for new beginnings, just like Peter and the disciples had to make room for new beginnings?
Every time a restriction is lifted from our Covid-19 rules, it will be part of a new beginning.
How is God messing with your head regarding old mindsets?
What about the way you see people? I mean – people who are very different from you – people who might not yet share your Christian beliefs?
The Jewish disciples of Jesus would have had their minds turned inside out with the revelation that God was including the Gentiles, which is everyone other than the Jews.
We don’t want anything from the old to hold us back from embracing the new. But don’t be surprised if it causes a bit of tension – a bit of stretching.
New King James Version
“Enlarge the place of your tent, And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, And strengthen your stakes.
For you shall expand to the right and to the left, And your descendants will inherit the nations, And make the desolate cities inhabited.”
I’m sure this is speaking to us about our lives – not just our church. And this is something that I feel God is saying to us – that part of the new thing He is doing is extending our thoughts, our Christian experience, our faith for the future, by calling is personally to make room to see life itself more and more as an expression of our faith.
What I mean is – let’s make sure we are embracing our whole life as something that God is wanting to renew and enlarge – with no more compartmentalism – no more living out of different boxes for different parts of our life.
I hope that makes sense.
Jesus caused the early Christians to continually enlarge their capacity for understanding and revelation and it overflowed into all of the world around them – not just their religious circle.
Now the whole world was their mission field. Now their limited and contained mindsets were being broken into and broken open by the Holy Spirit.
If that’s what He is wanting to do in us in this generation, then let’s be completely open to it.
And having said that – let’s not begin to set up new constraints or new limited understandings about how things should be at the exclusion of the awesome things and precious things that He has built up in us already.
Often it’s not about throwing out all of the old – but simply embracing the new as an enlargement or an increase on the old.
It comes back to the question – are we more focussed on the method – or are we focused on the Person of Jesus Christ?
Are we focussed on the outer – or are we focussed on the issues of the heart?
Maybe it’s my heart that needs to be renewed, refreshed, enlarged and extended more than anything else.
H.G. Wells once spoke of the influence of Jesus in history and said – “Is it any wonder that this Galilean is too much for our small hearts?” And yet the heart of man, though small, is big enough for Christ to live in, if man will only make room for Him.
Again – it’s speaking here of the limitless capacity of our hearts and lives to contain the immeasurable life of Christ – the very presence and all the fullness of God.
So now I want to highlight again the story that I feel the Holy Spirit was speaking to us when I originally spoke about “Making Room.”
It’s the story of a notable woman who lived in Shunem. She would provide food for Elisha the prophet when he often passed by her home.
New King James Version
“And she said to her husband, “Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly. 10 Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.”
This woman was literally extending and enlarging her home for the prophet – the man of God – to be able to rest there. In reality, she was making room for the presence of God to enter and dwell in her home. She recognised that she was making room for far more than a man.
Elisha was grateful and wanted to do something for her in return. But whatever he suggested she declined.
Finally Gehazi, Elisha’s side kick, revealed to him that she was without children, and that her husband was old.
“So he said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 Then he said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.”
And she said, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!”
Let’s stop right there. In truth, the gift of a child was most likely an incredible dream that this woman had carried in her heart. But now the limitations of her own body and the body of her husband were her reality.
And for this prophet to say that she would have a child this time next year was more than she could contain within her limited experience and mindset. And she could not bear the thought of returning to the disappointments that she must have faced in the past.
Does that speak to you?
Here I am – not that I’m a prophet – I’m simply bringing the word of God as the truth – but I’m saying, let’s be open to expanding our lives – our dreams and visions – our hopes for the future. Let’s allow the unlimited resources of heaven to fill our hearts and minds. Let’s allow our faith to overflow into every aspect of our lives….
And perhaps you’re sitting there thinking – but I’ve been disappointed enough already. I’ve prayed and believed in the past and nothing has changed.
Maybe you’ve closed off your heart to certain things and to have someone say, it’s not over yet…. It just causes you to respond like the Shunamite woman – and you can’t even bear to believe again.
New Kings James Version
“But the woman conceived, and bore a son when the appointed time had come, of which Elisha had told her.”
Incredibly – it happened just as the prophet said.
And this is what I’m trying to say – when you make room – not necessarily a literal room like this woman made – but when you make room in your heart for the presence of God – and you make room for faith to be ignited – and you make room for the limitlessness of God – anything is possible.
He will do exceedingly abundantly above anything you could ask or think. And it’s the miraculous power of God working in you.
Allow your mind to be blown open. Allow your heart to be set on fire.
Does it mean you’ll start living a fairy tale where nothing goes wrong? Like the bad things of this world will be unable to touch you?
No. As much as we might change and our hearts might change – the world is still broken and sick.
And the Shunamite woman soon discovered that.
“And the child grew. Now it happened one day that he went out to his father, to the reapers. 19 And he said to his father, “My head, my head!”
So he said to a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. 21 And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door upon him, and went out.”
We can only guess that the boy suffered something like a ruptured aneurysm. We don’t know.
But the point of this story is that the woman who had made room for God in her house – and who God had blessed with a child miraculously – she wasn’t about to have any of this robbing from her life and her future.
She placed the boy on the man of God’s bed – the very spot where she had made room in the first place.
She told her husband – all is well – and raced to find the prophet.
She told Elisha to come and revive her son – God’s gift to her.
He would have sent Gehazi – but she would accept nothing but the one who had birthed this new life and hope in her some four years earlier.
I’m running out of time to tell the whole story – but Elisha did go to the house – he laid upon the boy till he was warm and he had returned to life.
The point I want to make here is of course the faith of the woman. It was extraordinary. Those words – “it is well” – contained limitless faith and trust – including a stubborn determination that nothing that God had given her would be taken away.
But I also want to say to you – sometimes you have to run back to the place where you made room in the first place.
She literally took her boy into the room and placed him on the bed.
When you don’t understand – when all you have is your faith – sometimes all you can do is say God – I’m making room again…. I’m remembering when I made room for you in the past and you met me.
I’m making room in my heart again because You are the One who has given me life – you are the One who has birthed something incredibly beautiful within me – and You are all I have.
When the Shunamite woman said – “it is well” – she wasn’t necessarily saying everything is going to turn out rosie. She was saying – I don’t understand – but I also don’t have the complete picture as God sees it.
It’s with my heart that I believe – not my head. And the goodness and character of God remains the greatest truth within my heart.
There are endless stories from the bible I could share with you. And in my own life – when Venese and I have made room for God by extending and enlarging our faith and capacity for what He wanted to do in us – I just look back and think how extraordinary it has all been.
We could talk about the way four men made room for the paralysed man to be healed by Jesus – when they cut a hole in the roof of a house and lowered him down.
We could talk about the other Shunamite woman who gathered all the jars she could find, and God supernaturally filled them with oil, which provided for her and her family just when she needed it.
We could look at Psalm 22 – and we might finish with this.
David begins with a desperate cry as He often does. He’s being real.
But then he recognises where God is – He’s within the praises of His people.
When we make room for Him in praise and worship – He comes – He is faithful – and He answers.
The Passion Translation
“God, my God! Why would you abandon me now?
(Can you just hear the same cry come from the Shunamite woman?)
Why do you remain distant,
refusing to answer my tearful cries in the day
and my desperate cries for your help in the night?
I can’t stop sobbing. Where are you, my God?
Yet I know that you are most holy; it’s indisputable.
You are God-Enthroned, surrounded with songs,
living among the shouts of praise of your princely people.
Our fathers’ faith was in you—
through the generations they trusted and believed in you
and you came through.
Every time they cried out to you in their despair,
you were faithful to deliver them;
you didn’t disappoint them.”
Nothing has changed in that respect. God never changes – from one generation to the next.
And yet He calls us to change – to go from glory to glory.
And that’s what is happening now. He’s renewing our minds. He’s enlarging our hearts. He’s allowing the tension and uncomfortable seasons of life to stretch us and cause us to change.
Is He calling you to see the world in a totally new light just as Peter did?
Is He calling you to make room for His presence – and perhaps for something new to be birthed right where you live? Not just in church – but in your life!
Let your heart be soft and open. You have an unlimited capacity for God to do incredible things in and through you.
Let’s finish 2020 with shouts of praise and hearts full of worship because it makes room for Him! He inhabits the praises of his people the psalm says.
As we share communion together – let’s remember just how powerful and releasing that moment was, when He died for us on the cross of Calvary.
If ever there was a moment when God made room for us – it was then.
Let’s remember the power of the resurrection – and that we carry the same resurrection power and life within us…