Speaker: Rev. Shine Thomas
God created us in such a way that there is always room for growth. Too many people become stagnant at some place in life. They reach a certain level, attain their goals, then settle and linger around in what they have accomplished. Studies tell us that 50% of people after their graduation from college will never study about a subject their entire life. I have seen people put the same perspective into their Christian lives. When they got baptized they studied the word of God, gave much importance to God, church, and did everything to grow, but after reaching a certain level in faith, they put an end to their learning. Its only when we grow can we attain our potential that God has for us. God never created us to stop learning at any stage of life. Whether we are 80 years old or 10 years old, we should constantly be learning and growing in our Christian life.
This morning we are going to see some steps that can help us grow to reach our God-given destiny.
God burdened Nehemiah about the broken wall around Jerusalem. He went to Jerusalem, gathered the people, and started rebuilding the wall. Great opposition rose from both outside and within, but since it was divine plan and commission, God enabled Nehemiah and his team to complete the wall. In 52 days the work was completed. Even Israel’s enemies realized that this work was done by the help of God. By the time we come to Chapter 7, Nehemiah commissioned people to work as guards in the wall and people settled down after the work. In Chapter 8, they read the Word of God and to their amazement find themselves way short of the stands of God.
What you see here in Nehemiah is that on one side great work was accomplished. They had great enthusiasm, the walls are built, people are happy, there is victory over the enemies but when you look into the lives of the Israelites they were far short from the standards of God. They had become stagnant in their spiritual life.
The Bible says when they looked at their condition they mourned, wept and confessed their sins. Remember, these people had just returned from years of captivity. They knew the problem of being stagnant and not growing because earlier that led to sin and downfall. Now, they realized that deep within they were not growing. Things look good on the outside but inside they were rotting. They knew that if they do not get back to get back to growth, soon their victory and joy will be diminished.
The people of Israel owned responsibility for their condition made a “binding agreement” to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. In Chapter 10 of Nehemiah the Israelites made 4 vows or promises for their continued growth in the Lord. These vows can be used as a checklist for our personal spiritual growth.
The first one is found in Nehemiah 10:29 All these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath given through Moses the servant of God
Devotion brings growth.
Here they are making an oath to devote themselves to God by reading the Bible, obeying the commands, regulations, and decrees of the Lord.
You may ask me pastor do I read the same passage I read a year ago? I would say yes, that is exactly how we grow.
In the secular field, what gives professionals the cutting edge over others is their committed devotion to their profession. The best surgeons find time to read articles and the results of latest studies while the others surgeons watch TV. The best salesman will sharpen his skills by devoting time to research his subject. You, see it is not the extraordinary that make great people. It is ordinary people with great devotion that births a genius.
In our Christian faith it is our devotion that determines our altitude. You have a God-given potential. Who said it is all over? There are peaks to achieve but the key to your success is your devotion to God.
1 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those God is not looking for strong people, rich people, perfect people, or even for religious people. This morning, as He scans the congregation at City Harvest, He’s looking for devoted disciples, for men and women who are fully committed to Him. He’s looking for a regular person who He can pour His strength out on. In order for that to happen, we need to be completely committed and devoted to God.
Illustration: One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man ate a leisurely lunch and took several breaks throughout the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other guy had chopped a lot more wood than he had. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did.” To which the winning woodsman responded, “Didn’t you notice? I was sharpening my axe when I sat down to rest.”
It is good to take time everyday to sharpen our axe – devotion with God. That way we will achieve more and accomplish great things than we do otherwise.
Separation brings growth.
Nehemiah 10:30 We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.
Here the children of Israel are taking a vow to keep themselves separate from the world around them. One of the ways they got mixed was by allowing their children marry outside of Israel. That brought the influences of the pagan world, idol worship into the Israelite homes. Slowly the Word of God was given less importance which led to spiritual stagnancy. Result – No growth.
Friends, the biggest effort of satan today is aimed at the home and the lives of our people. Homes divided, mom and dad fighting, divorcing, children and parents fighting, our children getting married to nonbelievers, believers becoming too friendly with the world etc. All these halt our personal spiritual growth.
Illustration: Apple is wonderful fruit but with the season of apples come a special fly that infect it. As the beautiful apple is forming, the insect injects its eggs into it. In the outside the apple seems beautiful but in the inside there is an enemy growing, it is rotting inside. Before the fruit is ripe this apple falls down making it useless.
Friendship with the world is likewise. Nothing may seem bad at the beginning, everything may look prosperous but in the long run it can derail our progress. Just like the people of Jerusalem, on our list of priorities today should be to make sure that we and our homes are separated for God.
Worship brings growth.
Nehemiah 10:31 When the neighbouring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.
Another problem the Israelites realized that hindered their progress was that they did business on the Sabbath. They take a vow against it. Now they are telling, “We realize how important it is to make money. We must make money in order to support our families. But when somebody comes on the Lord’s Day – even with a great deal we will refuse to do business with that person, because the Sabbath day is holy and we will keep it holy.”
Firstly we must understand that worship is a continuous connection of one with God, it is not a one-time or weekly act. However, we should give importance to Sunday corporate worship. Folks, I’m concerned at the seeming indifference of some Christians about the sacredness of Sunday worship. They seem to think, “Worship is something to do if it is convenient – if it doesn’t interfere with anything else – but top priority, no! Our own pleasure comes first. Our own satisfaction comes before worship.”
Now the Israelites are saying, “No, worshipping God is our priority. We will always honour God on God’s day and worship Him.”
You see, God has kept the Sabbath day in the OT for a purpose. It was to be a separated day to honour God. Secondly, God emphasised the need for us to worship. Thirdly, it is a day where we come together, encourage and inspire one another. More importantly it was a day of rest.
This is an important model for us today. From the very beginning of the church, Christians made the Lord’s Day their appointed day for worship, rest, service, and witness. While avoiding the legalism that the Pharisees fell into, most of us can do a much better job of looking for ways to keep Sunday special.
Illustration: Sunday chased by a bear joke
We grow by giving for God’s work.
I want you to see vow the Israelites made about giving, v32-39 speaks about it.
a. It was responsible giving.
They gave because they were responsible.
Look at verse 32 & 35 where the people say that “they assume responsibility…”
Nehemiah 10:32 We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God.
Nehemiah 10:35 We also assume responsibility for bringing to the house of the LORD each year the first fruits of our crops and of every fruit tree.
They owned it and gave because they saw it as their privilege and their responsibility.
b. It was obedient giving.
They didn’t practice “impulse giving” but instead gave as an expression of practical obedience.
Nehemiah 10:32 We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God. Obedience was the key.
c. It was prescribed giving.
They were not only to bringing their offerings but also a “tithe” to the Lord.
Nehemiah 10:37 Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work.
Giving a tenth of their income to the Lord has a long history among believers and is the right example for Christian giving. Someone has said, “Tithe is a great place to start.” Tithe is the minimum we should be giving to further the Lord’s work.
Remember our giving contributes to our personal growth as believers, to the growth of our church, and the growth of the kingdom of God.
2 Corinthians 9:6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. If we sow generously, we will reap generously. And what is the nature of the harvest we will reap?
2 Corinthians 9:10-11 10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and 11You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
That it is a “harvest of righteousness.” In other words, growth in giving means personal growth. Why? Because when you receive the harvest of righteousness from God the Bible says you will be enriched in every way. Let’s grow by giving to God.
This morning let’s ask ourselves, “Am I you on the path of growth or am I sitting in the track of stagnancy?”
Illustration: Once a Singapore Airlines jumbo jet that crashed on take-off, killing at least 81 people onboard. Investigators finally determined that the jet was on the wrong runway when it tried to leave the Singapore International Airport. The pilot realized at the last moment that he was on a runway closed for repairs.
Apparently the pilot knew what runway he was supposed to be on and was not misdirected by the control tower. However, the officials have admitted that there was no barrier set up to block planes from going onto the closed runway. In addition, the lights on this runway were turned on because of the bad weather.
I’m wondering this morning if anyone here is on the wrong runway. It might look like everything is going ok in your life, but you actually do not know what lies ahead.
Friends, if we get back to Devotion, Separation, Worship, and Giving; God will lift you up in due season. God’s eyes are looking for these qualities this morning.
David was a shepherd boy. As a shepherd he had a very boring job, not rewarding, not recognized but he kept his devotion intact. He was totally committed to God all through his childhood. He kept himself separated from the world, from being defiled by the world. Worship was his strength when he was in the forest. He kept his worship going. You see what he was doing is that he was sharpening his axe.
When there was a need for a warrior against the Philistines, he gave himself up for the battle. In his giving himself, he risked his own life. But his devotion, separation, worship, and giving was enough for him to defeat that giant. Soon God lifted him and he kept progressing in life. He ended up being the best every king over Israel.
Child of God, God has great days ahead of you. God has destined to do great things through you. You have potential, ability, and talent on the inside but some of you are limited in your growth. You need to get back to growth.
I am going to prophesy just like David, God is going to thrust you to a new level of your destiny. He is going to open door that no man can shout. No one can stop you from being what God destined you to be in Jesus name.