God has strategically positioned you to make a difference for His glory. Dr. Tony Evans says we shortchange the kingdom when we don't use our skills and talents to influence our culture. One of the things we need to learn if we're going to rebuild our community is to discover how God can use our secular skill for sacred purposes. Celebrating 40 years of faithfulness, this is the alternative with Dr. Tony Evans. Author, speaker, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and president of the Urban Alternative.
Harry Truman had a well-known sign on his desk that said, the buck stops here. Well today, in this classic sermon preached nearly three decades ago, Dr. Evans contends that Christians need to embrace that same philosophy when it comes to caring for our culture. He says if we're not using our abilities to influence society for God, we're part of the reason it's deteriorating. Let's join him in the first chapter of Nehemiah as he explains just what we can do to bring light into our culture.
This book is not only about a people, it's about a man named Nehemiah. When a man or a woman makes themselves available to God, things can happen. While we look at methods and we try to find the best program, God always looks for the best person.
Because God's method is always a person. Beginning in verse 4, Now it came about when I heard these words. I sat down and wept and mourned for days. And I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. When he heard about the collapse of the world that he loved, of the people that he was a part of, of his community, if you will, he was so hurt and so in pain that he fasted and he prayed for many days. His first response was prayer, not his last response. He didn't go to God after he tried all of his human ingenuity, after he tried all of his human methods, after he had tried all the secularistic thinking, he went to God first. When there's been a collapse in your life, when do you go to God? After the marriage counseling has failed? After all your personal efforts have been exhausted?
No, no. It says he went to God first and he went to God first for many days and he went to God first for many days fasting. We define fasting as giving up a craving of the body because you have a greater need of the Spirit. In other words, this thing is so serious that you're willing to sacrifice for it.
And you always know whether something is serious by the price you're willing to pay for it. And so God provided the mechanism of fasting to give people the opportunity to let God know how serious things are because they will give up food or even in a marriage relationship, sexual intimacy, 1 Corinthians 7-5, they will give that up and the couple will pray together during the time they would normally be intimate together. It is giving up a passion of the flesh for a greater need of the Spirit. So prayer is his preamble to action and prayer provides his power for action. He says in verse 5, Now I said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love him and keep his commandments.
Now most of us would have jumped in and said, fix this problem, Lord. He introduces his prayer by reflecting on the character of God. He doesn't start off with this problem. He starts off with his God.
In other words, he puts his unsolvable problem against an all-sufficient God. You ought to always start your prayer life off with praise because it juxtapositions your problem against the size of your God. A lady once came to G. Campbell Morgan and said, I only take small things to God. I don't want to worry him with the big things. G. Campbell Morgan said, Lady, anything you bring to God is small.
See, we panic because this thing looks so big. It is only the Christian who is able to see their problem in light of their God that has the confidence to move against that problem with courage. And so he thinks about the great and awesome God in verse 5, and he talks about his character. Not only is he great and awesome, but it says that he preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love him and keep his commandments.
He says God is not only awesome, but he's faithful. He talks about preserving the covenant. The covenant means the binding relationship that God enters into with his people. And as his people live in context with that covenant, they can be confident of God's grace, God's forgiveness, and God's strength.
When God's people get right with God, they can count on him coming through for them. God's covenants are both conditional and unconditional. In other words, certain things God promises have nothing to do with whether you do right.
He does it for you anyway. For example, one of the great unconditional promises that we have is eternal security, that once you're saved, you cannot lose your salvation. That is an unconditional promise. However, some of the conditional promises have to do with our faithfulness or our obedience. Sowing and reaping, whatever man sows, that which he reaps. Those are the conditions on how you sow and how you reap for you to experience the provision of God's supply. And so he makes the clear statement that God is faithful to those who are serving him.
And so he starts off with the worship of God, and he starts off with the greatness of God. We were on vacation some years ago. We all drove up and went to the Grand Canyon.
I'm not sure why anybody goes to the Grand Canyon, but I had never been to the Grand Canyon, and I heard about this hole in the ground everybody ought to feed. And so we went to the Grand Canyon, but I had made a great mistake. That is, I forgot to make reservations, and if you've ever been to the Grand Canyon, you'll know that there are like three or four hotels, and then everybody else kind of has their campers. Well, we weren't traveling in a camper, and we didn't make a hotel reservation.
Now, if you don't get a hotel reservation in the area where the Grand Canyon is, you have to drive an hour and a half to the nearest town to get reservations. We had arrived there at some ungodly hour late at night or early in the morning. We had been driving all day. We were hot, tired, sweaty, and frustrated. We went up and said, sir, we would like a room. There were a whole line of people there, and we were told that there were no rooms. I knew how Jesus felt, no room in the inn.
I cannot tell you the frustration of being tired and can't find a room to see a hole in the ground. So we were pondering, and we only had one choice, and that was to drive an hour and a half to go back to a town that was nearby. We decided we'd go to the restroom of the hotel where there was a restaurant to clean up ourselves and to refresh ourselves before we had to drive. And we were sitting around eating just before we drove, and one of my daughters made an interesting statement. She said, you know, Dad, you haven't prayed. Every now and then I'm not very spiritual, and this was one of those occasions. I really didn't want to pray.
I wanted to sleep. So I said, you pray. So she had a simple prayer, Lord, we know that you're able to give us a room, and we know it's full, but if it's your will, give us a room, because we know you're able.
Children sometimes can pray profoundly. So she said amen, and I was thinking, now let's get on the road and go to the real world. As we finished eating and got ready to get up and leave, the hotel proprietor came by and said, weren't you one of the people asking about a room? We said yes. Well, there were a lot of people before you, but I can't find any of them, and one of our guests had to leave suddenly.
Would you still like the room? I looked up at heaven and looked over at my daughter. But Nehemiah sees a great problem that he doesn't have a solution for, and all he can say is, oh, awesome God. Verse 6, let thine ear be attentive and thine eyes open to hear the prayer of thy servant, which I am praying for thee day and night. So he goes some four and a half months praying.
One of the questions I'm often asked is, how long do you pray for something? Well, there's a very simple answer. Can you get an answer? There's only three answers God can get. He can say yes.
That's the answer we generally want. He can say no. Or he can say nothing, which means wait. Until God says no, you pray.
You don't quit. You pray until you hear something, because often God saying nothing is God saying, let me arrange things for the proper time and say yes. That's why you don't cut short praying. That's why you don't quit praying, because unless you've heard no, you assume God is going to say yes, going to arrange things different than what you asked so that it might as well be yes or get you ready for no. Dr. Evans will have more on praying for change when he continues our message in just a moment.
Stay with us. Words cannot express my gratitude to God for His faithfulness. Who would have thought He would have taken this urban kid out of Baltimore, Maryland, given him the opportunities, allowing me to earn a doctorate degree and to build a church ministry that would model what we've been doing nationally and internationally through this ministry, that He would build up and give us a staff who are committed to getting this truth out, reaching hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people with the truth of God in all manner of ways, and to impact individuals and families and churches and even communities with the worldview of the Kingdom agenda, the visible manifestation of the comprehensive rule of God of every area of life. And I'm certainly grateful for all the friends He's given us to keep us being able to get God's truth into a needy world.
I praise God for 40 years of His favor on us. One lasting hallmark of the ministry here at The Alternative is our commitment to offer resources that help listeners like you grow strong in faith, wisdom, and dedication to God's Kingdom. And that's why I want to tell you about our current featured resource, Tony Evans' Top 40, a collection of the most hard-hitting, life-changing sermons in his 40-year ministry history. It includes the message you're hearing today about praying and waiting for God's timing, along with your divine purpose and God's plan, maximizing your potential, and so much more.
These messages can literally change your life or the life of someone you love. So right now, we're offering volumes 3 and 4 of this powerful and historic compilation as our thank-you gift when you make a contribution to help us keep Tony's teaching on this station. Please visit tonyevans.org while the special offer is still available. Make your donation, and you'll receive all 20 lessons in volumes 3 and 4 of Tony Evans' Top 40. Again, that's tonyevans.org.
Or call our resource center at 1-800-800-3222, where friendly team members are ready to assist you with your request 24-7. I'll repeat our contact information after Part 2 of today's lesson, coming up right after this. We were at the Garden Tomb, and we had communion, and we talked about the Resurrection. Dr. Tony Evans recalls what happened when he led a group of first-timers on a trip to the Holy Land. People began to weep as they understood afresh the crucifixion, and that's one of the things that I think comes out of going there is a fresh encounter, so that things have gotten dull or stale.
It has a way of injecting new life and new reality into your experience. Now you can have that experience yourself, thanks to Tony's new movie coming out this November, Journey with Jesus. What I'm hoping is that through this experience and with that movie, I will be there with you, and you will be there with me. Journey with Jesus, November 15th, 16th, and 17th, in a theater near you. I look forward to the fellowship we're going to have together through the film.
For locations, showtimes, and more, visit tonyevans.org. He says, I pray on behalf, this is called intercession, praying on behalf of Israel, sons of Israel, thy servants. Now look at this. Confessing the sins of the sons of Israel, which we have sinned against thee, I and my Father's house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments nor the statutes nor the ordinances which thou didst command thy servant Moses. Deterioration in your personal life, family life, or societal life can be traced back to sin.
You can trace the headlines of the morning news in terms of what's happening in crime and what's happening in economics and what's happening in social deterioration and racial strife to sin. The deterioration of a culture is tied to the sinfulness of God's people because the reason that God has his people in the culture is as a preservative—remember, salt and light, you are the salt of the world— we are here to sustain culture. But we often add to the decline of culture because we do not influence it for righteousness.
See, that's why you've got to have Christian politicians and Christian lawyers and Christian doctors and Christian accountants and Christian everything else so that there will be a divine, righteous presence in the culture. He says in verse 8, Remember the word which thou didst command thy servant Moses. What Nehemiah is saying, Lord, you remembered your word about cursing us. Say, you remember that?
Well, because we in a mess. Because God had told them, if you rebel against me, if you leave me, then my word says that I am going to judge you. Nehemiah says, God, I know you remembered that because look in the mess we in, but remember your other word. Remember the word, verse 8, If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples.
So they were under Persian rule. But if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered, now get this, were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather you from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause my name to dwell. Now, boy, I like this. You know what it says? No matter what mess you have created, no matter how far left you've gone, I got good news for here. Some of you that messed up your life that a doctor can't fix it, a psychologist and psychiatrist can't fix it. Some of us have messed up our lives. There's nothing left to live for. We've been sitting so deep for so long.
We've been addicted for so long. We wonder if there is any hope in the world. Remember that word. Remember you told me, Lord, that if I got right with you, if I turned and repented of my sin, even though I was way out there, he said, scattered to the uttermost part of the heavens.
Now, that's a long way out. Even though you were way out there, I will gather you together. I will turn the circumstances around. Just as God remembers His word for judgment, He also remembers His word for blessing. But it's conditioned, He says, on your decision to be faithful.
Remember your words. You know what that means? That means there's hope for the worst situation. I like how it's put in Malachi chapter 3. They had forgotten God and were robbing God and all that kind of stuff, and God says that He was sending them the locust to eat up their crop. He said, but if they would remember the Lord, He would turn the agricultural situation totally around. Remember thy word. No matter how bad things get, God will honor His word.
It continues now, verse 10. And they are thy servants, and thy people whom thou didst redeem by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. He's saying, we are your people. God obligates Himself to His people. God is not obligated to the non-Christian world. God is obligated to the Christian world.
That's why the Christian world can get things done for the non-Christian world, because we are the ones to whom God is obligated. He comes to the last verse, which has a lot in it. Let me summarize it for you, verse 11. O Lord, I beseech Thee, may thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant and the prayer of thy servants who delight to revere, worship Your name. He says, I'm praying, but I have a small group praying too.
He says, recognize this group. Even though the people are still messed up, accept us as your representative, who delight to revere Thy name and make Thy servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man. Now I was a cupbearer to the King. Nehemiah asked God to give him success. Now, Nehemiah saw the significance of his position. Here is a fundamental flaw that has encapsulated the Christian church.
Many of us have separated the fact that we worship God from the skills that He has given us, that many of us are already utilizing in our employment. It dawns on him. He says, I was the cupbearer for the King.
Now what does that mean? He had not made the correlation before between being a cupbearer and the plight of Jerusalem. It hadn't dawned on him before that he was in the most strategic position possible. See, some of you work for different entities, but it never dawned on you that God has strategically positioned you to make a difference for His glory. All you see is skill and dollars.
All you see is, I do this to make a living. But you've not interpreted your cup-bearing, that is, your career, as an opportunity to make a difference for the glory of God. One of the things we need to learn if we're going to rebuild our community is to kingdomize our skill, to discover how God can use our so-called secular skill for sacred purposes. God has a divine purpose for your abilities. And it didn't dawn on him that there was a link here, that there was a connection here, that God wanted to use a skill that He had and a position. It wasn't so much a skill that He wasn't going to do cup-bearing in Jerusalem. It was more a position.
He was in a place of influence. Dr. Tony Evans, with an important and timeless message on how God is ready to use you for the advancement of His kingdom, wherever you are in life. You know, the lesson you've been hearing today is part of Tony's special audio compilation called Tony Evans Top 40. There's plenty of bonus content in this collection, including entire messages we won't have time to present on the air. But right now, we'll send you Volumes 3 and 4 of this 4-volume set as our gift when you make a contribution to help us keep Tony's teaching on this station. This is a limited-time offer, so I encourage you to take advantage of it right away. You can make the arrangements today at tonyevans.org, or let one of our team members help you when you call 1-800-800-3222 any time of the day or night.
That's 1-800-800-3222. It's easy to proclaim praise God when we see His hand at work and everything's going well. But how do we respond in the quiet times when the miraculous isn't front and center and not much seems to be happening besides everyday, ordinary, day-to-day life? Well, tomorrow Dr. Evans addresses this as we turn back the hands of time and present a powerful message preached during the era of bell-bottoms, disco, and vinyl albums. I hope you'll join us for this classic, yet ever-relevant message from 40 years of ministry. The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans is brought to you by The Urban Alternative and is celebrating 40 years of faithfulness thanks to the generous contributions of listeners like you.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-05 20:57:13 / 2023-08-05 21:05:58 / 9