Great and Mighty Things
“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”
About a week ago now US Airways flight 1549 had just lifted off the runway, was 90 seconds into the flight, when a flock of birds took out both engines. At the time, they were about 3000 feet above one of the most heavily populated regions on the earth, New York City. It was absolutely miraculous that the pilot was able to land the plane in the Hudson River, and no one, either in the plane or on the ground was seriously injured. I don’t know what it takes to qualify as a miracle in your mind, but it seems to me that pretty much fits. God can do mighty things.
Back in 1975, Billy Graham published a book called Angels. He tells this story:
“The Reverend John G. Paton, pioneer missionary in the New Hebrides Islands, told a thrilling story involving the protective care of angels. Hostile natives surrounded his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning the Patons out and killing them. John Paton and his wife prayed all during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see that, unaccountably, the attackers had left. They thanked God for delivering them.
A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Jesus Christ, and Mr. Paton, remembering what had happened, asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, "Who were all those men you had with you there?" The missionary answered, "There were no men there; just my wife and I." The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard - hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station so that the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did Mr. Paton realize that God had sent His angels to protect them. The chief agreed that there was no other explanation” [Graham, Billy. Angels: God's Secret Agents. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1975 (p. 5)].
Isn’t that amazing? God is in the business of doing amazing things.
God is the creator and there is nothing more mind-boggling that the creation. We live in this great universe, and we do not really know how big it is. Or, how old it is. Our best guess is that it is about 13 billion years old. And the latest estimates say that it is about 156 billion light years in diameter [see http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/mystery_monday_040524.html].
A light year is the distance light travels in a year—which is roughly 6 trillion miles. So scientists are saying that the diameter of the universe is about 156 billion times 6 trillion miles. You can do the math if you like. The more we learn about the creation, the more incomprehensible the creator becomes. We cannot even imagine a God who could create something as large and as old as the universe. We have a God who does great and mighty things.
That is what Jeremiah said. In chapter 33, let us back up to v1 for a moment. Verse one reads: “The word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah the second time, while he was yet shut up in the court of the prison,” Jeremiah is in jail, and apparently this is the second time he has been in jail.
What happened is this: The Babylonian army had invaded Judah, devastated the land, and was besieging Jerusalem. Jeremiah told the people that God was on the side of the Babylonians and they needed to go ahead and surrender and make the best deal they could. This was obviously not a popular message. It was true, but not popular. Most people probably regarded Jeremiah as a traitor, and the king threw him in prison.
This reminds us of Paul’s situation when he wrote the letter to the Philippians. Philippians is probably the happiest, most joy-filled book in the Bible. Paul wrote it in prison. Jeremiah is talking about what great things God will do when we call on him, while he is in jail and pretty much despised by his own people. Maybe the lesson is that our circumstances do not dictate happiness. Happiness is a result of a relationship with God. when we have a connection with God we begin to realize that God is far greater than we ever imagined and God can do for more than we ever thought. In Ephesians, Paul says, God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20). God is able to do what we cannot even imagine.
God can do great and mighty thing in our lives when we pray. The sermon today is part of the Prayer Emphasis Program of the WOC. So, let us talk about prayer. God says, "Call to Me and I will answer you." That is plain and simple language. Bring to God your needs, burdens, and worries, desires, hopes, ambitions, whatever, bring it to God, and the verse says, God will answer.
That leads to a plain and simple question: why don’t we pray more? There have been a number of surveys done on how long the average Christian prays every day. The surveys are all suspect because we know that people tend to exaggerate the time they spend doing things they know they are supposed to do. Ask people how much they exercise a day. Well they fudge a little or maybe a lot. Ask people how much they weigh, they knock off a few pounds. Ask them how long they pray, they add a minute or two or three. Surveys say the average Christian prays 5 minutes a day. We suspect it is more like three, three minutes a day.
Question: How much time do you spend in prayer each day? If you say grace before meals and have a little prayer going to sleep, you might get three minutes a dday. And that would make you pretty much average. If you added even one minute of prayer, that would make you special. Think about that. If you pray 5 minutes a day, you are in the elite class of prayer warriors. Most people don’t do nearly that much. They say they don’t have time. But why not? any teenager can talk on the phone for an hour. Why cannot we talk to God for ten minutes.
Do you want to have a better prayer life? Pray. Don’t prepare to pray - just pray. Don’t read books about prayer - just pray. Don’t engage in discussion about prayer - just pray.
The Bible is filled with men and women who did the impossible because they kept their eyes on God, not on their circumstances. They called upon God and God delivered them in spite of the overwhelming odds. Moses led Israel out of Egypt with only a staff in his hand. Gideon and 300 men attacked and put to flight thousands of Midianites with trumpets and torches. Daniel was cast into a “burning fiery furnace” and came out alive and unsinged. Why did they succeed? Why were they able to overcome overwhelming odds and difficulties? Because they called upon God, and God supplied their needs. God answered their prayers in God’s time and God’s way, but that is always the most powerful and wonderful way.
So the question for you today is what great and mighty things do you want from God? What great and mighty things do you want for this church? What great and mighty things do you want for this community? What do you want God to do for you? Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
Even now, God is doing wonderful things. Every time Jesus forgives one of us of our sins and writes our name in the Lamb’s Book of Life, that is a great and mighty thing. Every time Jesus heals a broken body, or broken spirit, that is a great and mighty thing. Each time Jesus restores a troubled marriage or relationship, that is a great and mighty thing. Every time a believer determines under God’s power and leadership to give up a nasty habit or a besetting sin, that is a great and mighty thing. Every time one believer has the courage to go to another person and say, "I’ve wronged you, and I’m sorry. Please forgive me,” that is a great and mighty thing. Every time a believer has compassion on someone less fortunate, to give even a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name, that is a great and mighty thing.
God is watching. He is waiting to do great and mighty things in your life. God wants to do great and mighty things in this church. God would love to use you as his instruments to accomplish his purpose in this community.
If we had read further in Jeremiah, chapter 33, we would have seen that God told Jeremiah exactly what He intended to do for Judah. God gives Jeremiah specific promises for the people. God tells Jeremiah:
· I’m bring Judah and Israel back from their captivity (vs. 7)
· I will cleanse them and forgive their sin (vs. 8)
· Jerusalem will have honor and renown (vs. 9)
· There will be the sounds of joy and bride and bridegroom (vs. 11)
· In that day I will raise up my righteous branch (Jesus) – vs. 14 & 15
God gives Jeremiah promise after promise, and God gives us promises. For example, 2 Timothy 1:12 “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
That is a promise from God. So one last question today. Are you claiming the promises? Down in Scottsboro, Alabama there is a store called "Unclaimed Baggage." It is about the size of a city block. The store sells items that were left for 90 days at an airline and declared “unclaimed.” The store purchases these items at a fraction of the original cost and resales them for a profit. According to their website [http://www.unclaimedbaggage.com], they handle more than a million items a year—cameras, sporting goods, luggage, electronics, jewelry, books, everything. That is astonishing. What is even more astonishing is that we have an astronomical amount of promises from God that we leave unclaimed.
"Call to me and I will answer you,” God promises. Our problem is we are not calling, so God does not answer. In the New Testament, the letter of James speaks to this same problem: “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (4:2). James says, you do not have because you do not ask God. If we ask, God will answer, and God’s answers are greater than we can imagine.
So, we need to take a long hard look at our prayer life. If we do not spend much time with God, we should not be surprised that God is not doing much in our lives. The Psalmist says God is our strength (81:1). When it comes to tackling the difficult situations in our lives, are we using all our strength? If we do not have a solid prayer life, we are not. We complain of stressed-out lives while all the time God is waiting for us to call then God will answer.
Our problem is not unanswered prayer. Our problem is unasked prayer. We says all of the theologically correct things, about God being all-powerful and all knowing and everywhere present, and then we live like we do not believe any of that, and we wonder why things are so difficult for us. We make the difficulty by our lack of prayer.
Maybe we are a little afraid that God might actually answer our prayers. Maybe, in our heart of hearts, we know who God is and what God can do, and we are not sure we really want that. We don’t want our world to be shaken by God so we are content with praying 3 minutes a day or less. We wouldn’t know what to do if God shook things up in our lives so we keep God and God’s power at a safe distance. We pray enough to get by, not enough to get beyond.
We believe God created the whole universe but we fail to ask God to help us with our problems. We say we believe God cares, but we don’t pray like we believe God cares.
Maybe at the end of time when we all stand at the judgment seat of Christ, one thing we will all realize is how much unclaimed baggage, or how many unclaimed blessings, we left with God because we did not pray enough.
It is time to start claiming blessings, time to start praying more. Time to start praying like we believe what we say we believe about God.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
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