Toolkit for Life: Tuning (Luke 10:38-42)

[VeggieTales song "Busy"]

Earlier this year, Ed and I received an e-mail from someone in our church with the subject line "Overloaded." The e-mail got my attention. Listen to what it said:

I'm spiritually dry and mentally exhausted. I figured out why I'm feeling weary and burned out. Eek. This is TOO MUCH.

Why in the world am I offering to do MORE, or agreeing to add new responsibilities before dropping old ones? That's crazy.

If Richview was a job, the HR department would be telling me to take a leave of absence, or at least book some time off since I haven't had a holiday in four years.

So. In answer to recent e-mails [to join other ministries], no!...

Furthermore, if the discussion at Frontline was any indication, I'm not alone. This is a problem for many of the people who were at that meeting, including (especially!) for the two of you.

So... what can be done? Because it seems clear that SOMETHING should be done.

"Something should be done." I think that's right. The person who wrote this e-mail isn't alone. Yesterday, I talked to somebody else who told me, "I have to say no from now on. I keep saying yes when asked to serve, but from now on I can't. I've reached my limit." If we opened the floor, we could probably have testimonials of people who are feeling this way - overloaded, stressed, and stretched to the limit.

See how you compare to this survey of Americans who were asked if they would say:

Need more fun: 68
Need a long vacation: 67
Often feel stressed: 66
Feel time is crunched: 60
Want less work, more play: 51
Feel pressured to succeed: 49
Feel overwhelmed: 48

It's obviously not a lot of fun to live this way, but the problems go deeper. According to Jesus, we put a lot more at risk than our mental health when we live with overload.

The Real Problem with Busyness

If you have a Bible with you, let's look at Luke 10 together. Luke 10 contains some stories that are pretty familiar to a lot of us, but we may never have seen them put together before in a way that gets at the problem.

Luke was a careful storyteller. I've often read the stories in the Bible as if they're written in some random order. Most of the time, I've assumed that we're just reading a chronological account of what happened. Many times, it helps to look at what happened before and after each story. There's usually some connection, and it helps figure out how it all ties together. I've never realized before that part of what Jesus is talking about in this chapter is busyness.

In this case, the story starts with someone asking Jesus, "Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?" (Luke 10:25). Jesus asked him to answer the question from the Scriptures:

The man answered, "'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.' And, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"Right!" Jesus told him. "Do this and you will live!" (Luke 10:27-28)

If you want to reduce all the commands in the Bible down to two essentials, these are the two: loving God, and loving others. This is sometimes called the Great Commandment. Everything else is window dressing. This is the essence of what it means to follow God: love him, love others.

What's interesting is what comes next: two stories in which people fail to love God and love others. The first story is about a failure to love people. You may know it as the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is beaten and robbed. A couple of people who could help don't because - you guessed it - they're too busy. Wayne Jacobsen writes, "What if the priest and Levite passed by the beaten man on the Jericho road, not because they lacked compassion, but because they were running late to a discipleship group or an important board meeting?" Busyness, even for the most holy of reasons, can cause us to break the Greatest Commandment. We can't love others when we're too busy.

The next story is about our failure to love God. The culprit, again: busyness.

Get the picture here? We're taught that the most important commands to obey are the commands to love God and love our neighbor. This is followed by two stories in which people fail to love God and love their neighbor. The common problem in both: busyness.

Busyness is more than a stress problem. Busyness does more than make relationships more difficult. The danger of busyness is not just the toll that it takes on our bodies and the exhaustion that it causes. The real problem with busyness is that it becomes a disobedience issue. Busyness can lead to a failure to keep the Great Commandment: love God and love others.

This is a good reality check for most of us who are, if we're honest, busy. This takes busyness out of the "lifestyle improvement" column and into the "faithfulness" column. That's why we're talking about it today. If we're going to live faithfully, we need to realize that busyness keeps us from being faithful in the two commands that matter most. Busyness is the enemy of the soul.

This isn't just theory. In 1973, a group of theology students was told that they were to go across campus to deliver a sermon on the topic of the Good Samaritan. As part of the research, some of these students were told that they were late and needed to hurry up. Along their route across campus, the researchers had hired an actor to play the role of a victim who was coughing and suffering.

Ninety percent of the "late" students in Princeton Theology Seminary ignored the needs of the suffering person in their haste to get across campus. As the study reports, "Indeed, on several occasions, a seminary student going to give his talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan literally stepped over the victim as he hurried away!" Busyness keeps us from loving God and loving others.

Second Tool: Tuning

TuningSlowing is an important part of our obedience, but it's not enough. There's a second skill that's needed. Tuning is essential if we are going to love our neighbors and love God.

Every day we're barraged with information. The newspaper arrives before we get up. The computer has a stack of e-mails that arrived while we were sleeping. The radio and TV blast us with commercials. The billboards are bigger than life. We've got voice mail, junk mail, e-mail, snail mail. Information comes at us 24/7. I Googled "information overload" and it came back with a quarter of a million results. There is way too much information out there competing for our attention.

It's not easy to tune into what's important. With all the noise and demands, we tend to tune into whatever is most urgent, or whatever is loudest. Whatever we tune into gets our attention and sets the agenda for our life. Tuning is more important than we could ever imagine.

Luke 10 contains a story about tuning. "As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home" (Luke 10:38). Most of us have had people over to our house, and we know that entertaining is very stressful. We don't know the details of this visit. Maybe it was arranged beforehand; maybe they just popped in. There probably would have been at least fifteen people present. I don't think that I have ever cooked for and entertained that many people all at once. I've entertained a lot less and been frazzled.

For Mary and Martha to have Jesus and his disciples over was a big deal. A woman's honor and reputation depended on her ability to manage her household well. Service was considered a woman's highest calling in that day. You don't just have a bunch of people over in that culture - never mind Jesus - without sweating the details a bit. The food doesn't cook itself.

"Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what he taught. Martha was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing" (Luke 10:39-40). Martha was going crazy trying to get everything ready. There weren't any microwave ovens or prepared foods. Everything was made from scratch. I can barely even cook for a whole bunch of people with the conveniences that I have. I wouldn't have a hope doing what Martha was doing all by herself.

If you want to criticize anyone in this story, Mary is the easy target. While Martha was working, Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet and listening to his teaching. We aren't shocked by this, but it would have been completely shocking back then. To sit at the feet of a respected rabbi was the position of a disciple. No rabbi at the time had a female disciple. Girls at that time did not receive a formal education; they were taught only household duties like sewing and weaving. Jewish tradition said, "If any man give his daughter a knowledge of the Law it is as though he taught her lechery." It was completely inappropriate for Mary to be sitting at the feet of Jesus learning at that time. It went against everything in that society.

"She came to Jesus and said, 'Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me'" (Luke 10:40). I don't blame Martha. There was nothing wrong with what she was doing. Where would be without the people like Martha?

So you have two things at work here. One, Martha isn't getting the help that she needs to carry out her obligations. Two, Mary is going against every expectation about how she should behave.

Listen to how Jesus responded: "But the Lord said to her, 'My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it-and I won't take it away from her'" (Luke 10:41-42).

Jesus didn't blame Mary. He didn't tell her to get back into the kitchen and to learn her place. Instead, he praised her, saying that she was tuned in to what was important.

This seems like it's thousands of years and thousands of miles away from us, but it's not. We face the same issues today, the same choices that faced Mary and Martha.

Noise - I'll admit it, I get distracted by the noise of a full house. I see what needs to get done. I am driven by the noise - by my to-do list, by what I've got scheduled. Noise is what's going on around us. It's all the distractions around us. It's the TV, the radio, the phone. It's always being connected. It's all the stuff we need to get done, all the things we're listening to. Martha made a choice to tune into the noise. Mary made a choice to tune into Jesus instead of the noise.

Tuning involves reducing the noise. It's letting the dishes stay stacked, the laundry sit unfolded. It's leaving some items unchecked on your to-do list. It's unplugging from the Internet and turning the radio and television off. It's getting rid of everything - even good things - that distract us so we can hear the voice of Jesus.

Mary was somehow able to tune out the dishes that needed to be cooked and to sit down at the feet of Jesus.

The louder life gets, the more noise we hear, the more we need to unplug, shut everything down, and sit at God's feet. The more noise we have in our lives, the more we need to take the deliberate step of tuning out that noise and listening to Jesus.

One way to tune noise out is to practice the one-dish rule. Martha was preparing all kinds of dishes. Really, one dish would have been enough. Jesus said, "Only one thing is needed" (Luke 10:42). One way to tune out the noise is to simplify, to do less. Simplifying what we do is an excellent way to make room to listen to Jesus.

I don't know what will work for you. Sometime, somehow, we need to figure out what will work for us so that we can shut out all the noise and sit at the feet of Jesus. What will work for you?

Expectations - Tuning means reducing the noise. It also means ignoring expectations. Mary learned from Jesus because she refused to be confined to the women's quarters. She went against all the expectations of the day and broke all the expectations.

Jesus welcomed Mary as his disciple. He broke the expectations of the day. Tuning means that we ignore the expectations people have of us if it will take away from our time with Jesus. The expectations might be self-imposed. They may come from people at the church or from work. There was nothing wrong with what Martha was doing, but Mary chose not to allow the expectations to take her away from Jesus. We may need to take a time out from the expectations that others have of us to spend some time with him.

There's a word that can help you say no to the expectations of others when you need to slow and tune. It's an easy word, but one that we need to master: No! If you have a hard time saying no, then say, "No, thanks." Jesus modeled the way for us. He didn't let others define what He would do. Even when the pressures were intense, Jesus got away from those who needed Him and spent time with God.

Tuning involves reducing the noise, ignoring the expectations, and learning from Jesus.

The problem with busyness is that you can't be busy and love God and love people. Busyness is the enemy of the soul. We're working harder than ever. There's more to read and more to do than ever before. We can barely keep up. In a world that keeps going faster and faster, Jesus invites His people to unplug, to ignore the rising expectations that try to convince us to do anything but to sit at the feet of Jesus. He invites us to find a way that fits our personality and will work with our schedule so we can sit and learn from Him. Most of us could use a bit more Mary and a little less Martha.

Jesus said, "There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it-and I won't take it away from her."

God desires a relationship with you, far more than He values anything you could do for him. Two of the tools that are essential to being - not just doing - are to slow the speed of life, and then to tune into God. Jesus Himself took time away from the noise and the expectations to connect with God. If He needed to tune, it's a sure thing that we need to tune into God as well.

The more that life speeds up, the more we need to take the deliberate steps of slowing and sitting at the feet of the One who is with us all the time, and who wants a relationship with us. The more noise in our outside world, the more we need a quiet center, an inner core that's still.

So what noise do you need to tune out? What expectations do you need to ignore? What will work for you in terms of tuning into God - a quiet morning appointment with a cup of coffee, a walk in nature, a CD, some time before you go to bed? If we're going to live a life of faithfulness to God, slowing and tuning are two essential tools that we need to learn.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Slowing (Psalm 127)


We're starting a new series today called Toolkit for Living. I'm not a handyman, but I've found that most jobs are possible with the right tools. Once you are using the right tools, the job is a cinch.

There are some tools that have fallen out of favor, but they're as relevant today as they ever were. Over the next few weeks, I'd like for us to look at four tools that you don't hear about too much today. They're tools, though, that will make a huge difference in our lives. The first tool is slowing.

If you ask someone, "How are you?" there's a good chance you'll hear "Busy" as the answer. Busy has replaced good as the default answer. We're so busy that we've forgotten what it's like to not be busy.

They actually have one-minute bed time stories for kids now. We have fast food, alarm clocks, rush hour, and express lanes. We work longer hours and take fewer vacations than ever before. I knew we were in trouble when they came out with Easy Mac: "Make your life easier with Kraft Easy Mac." How hard was macaroni and cheese to start with? Even I could make that. We have more appliances and time-saving techniques than ever before, but we're more time-pressed and less satisfied than we can ever remember.

Living busy lives is costing us. We're stressed and rushed even when we don't need to be. One day runs into the next. It used to be that the months stretched out in front of us. Summers seemed to last forever. Now, it feels like we're stuck on a hamster wheel, and we wish we could get off. Some of us take a vacation and end up getting sick because we're exhausted. We're less satisfied, but we can't see how things are going to change.

Busyness also takes its toll on our relationships. Our kids are also busier than ever. They used to give the kids homework; now they give the parents homework. We have sheets to sign and homework to check. Our kids are booked in activities. We don't have the time we'd like to connect the way we'd like to.

Marriages also suffer from busyness. Relationships take time. As things get busy, that time is sacrificed. After a while, we lose touch on how to connect. The longer we go, the harder it is. Some marriages have died from busyness.

It's the same with God. We'd love to take time to pray, but where do we find the time? How can we slow down enough to read the books we want to read, to take time for ourselves, to get all the work done, to build our relationships, and to play? As the VeggieTales would say, "We're busy, busy, dreadfully busy You've no idea what we have to do. Busy, busy, shockingly busy; Much, much too busy for you."

This is something that I struggle with. A few years ago, my schedule was way out of control. I had meetings and commitments, and I couldn't see a break in sight. Around the same time, I heard of a pastor friend who was in the hospital with a life-threatening illness. For a moment, I envied him for his schedule. That wasn't a sane thought. I knew then that I was in trouble, and that I had to make a change immediately. Busyness, taken to an extreme, endangers our souls.

Psalm 127 has a word that we need to hear. It was written thousands of years ago, years before we even measured our days by the hands of a clock. As we read the Psalm, it's as if it speaks to our current situation. It gives us a diagnosis that we need to hear in our lives today.

Psalm 127:1-2 says:

Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.

In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat-
for he grants sleep to those he loves. (NIV)

One word is repeated three times in the first two verses: vain. This is the Biblical diagnosis for our lives: you may be working in vain. It's not that you aren't working hard enough; you are. It's not even that you're working on bad things. Building houses and guarding cities are examples of some work that is good, but vain under certain conditions. You may be working hard and on good things, but all that work might be in vain.

Want an example of this? I think a lot of us could pause at the end of the year and ask ourselves what we accomplished over the past year. We've been busy, but a lot of what we've been busy doing doesn't have any lasting value. I look back at entire years - say, 1985 - and I can't tell you a single thing I did that year. I'm pretty sure I was busy. I know I was doing something, and it seemed pretty important at the time. You can go entire years, even decades, and have nothing to show for it at the end. It doesn't mean that you weren't busy. It means that you were busy working for things that don't really make a difference in the end.

Verse two sounds like the way a lot of us live: rising early, staying up late, working to put food on the table. The Psalm, though, says that it is in vain. Working hard at good things is no guarantee that we're investing our lives well. There's nothing to show for this way of living in the end.

When we live this way, we end up failing even when we succeed. We could work day and night to build a business that is successful beyond our expectations. Even when the business succeeds, according to this Psalm, it could be in vain. We could be wasting our lives.

What's the alternative? Psalm 127:2 gives us a hint. It says, "He grants sleep to those he loves." The NIV has a footnote with an alternate reading: "While they sleep, he provides for those he loves." Both readings are possible, but the second one seems to make more sense in this Psalm. You can work like crazy and it's all in vain. On the other hand, those that God loves are enjoying their sleep, and God is at work providing for them even while they're asleep. It's a choice: work hard and lost it all, or have God provide for you even while you're asleep. The second is a much better way to live.

All through the Bible, you see God doing this. You have people who work to get ahead, and their efforts don't amount to anything. Think of all the people who failed despite succeeding: all the political leaders, all the kings, all the big shots. Think of all the nobodies who couldn't make it to the top even if they wanted to. God provided for them and put them in positions they couldn't have reached if they had tried. God provides for those he loves even when they're sleeping.

The rest of the psalm gives us an example:

Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.

Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.

Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.
(Psalm 127:3-5 NIV)

Kids are a good example of a project that God is involved with. If you've had children, it's clear that you had something to do with it. You got the process started, and it's not like mothers-to-be don't have a role. But God does most of the work. It's God who provides the children in the first place. Even when you're asleep, God is guiding the growth of the baby until that baby is ready to be born. Children are a project in which we play a role, but we succeed ultimately because God is involved. We wouldn't be able to do it without Him.

When we're at work with God's projects, then we can go to bed at night, knowing that God is at work even when we're not. Victor Hugo says, ""When you have accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace; God is awake."

So here's what this should mean to us. The lesson is pretty clear. When we are involved with our own projects, we're wasting our time. They may be very good projects, but if God isn't involved, then our busyness is counterproductive. It's in vain. We can build houses, guard cities, build businesses, write books, complete projects. It can all be good, but it can all be in vain if God isn't in it. This is what happens sometimes when we start something and ask God later to bless it. God doesn't bless it, because it wasn't His idea in the first place. We're wrong when we invite God to join our agenda. That's not the way it works.

Here's what we can do if we don't want to waste our lives. Instead of inviting God to join our agenda, we can get involved in His agenda. We can figure out what projects are God's and get involved with what He's doing. This is asking the question of what God wants you to do with your life. It's asking Him for his agenda, so that He's at work in your life, even when you're asleep.

The problem is that when we're busy we don't have time to ask God what his projects are. When we're busy, we get caught up in our own agendas. We collapse in bed at the end of the day, tired and hoping that what we did mattered. When we're busy, we never take time to stop and ask if what we're doing matters. It's possible to waste years, and in the end, all that work doesn't really matter.

SlowI don't have easy answers on what God's projects are that He'd like you to join. I do know that we will never know until we take the time to slow, to stop some of the things that are keeping us busy, so we have time to listen to God for direction. Slowing makes sense for two reasons. One: it stops us from doing things that are vain in the first place. Two: it gives us time to ask God what He'd like us to do with our lives.

Whenever I slow and ask God to give me wisdom for what I should be doing, I've sensed His leading in my life. We can take time to slow, to check in with God, to think about His Word. We can ask Him what He'd like us to stop in our lives. We can ask Him if there's anything He would like us to start doing. We can ask God the big questions about what we should be doing with our lives. We can ask God for daily direction, for what directions He'd like us to take that day. When we slow (or stop), we can switch from our projects to God's projects.

This is the first tool we can use. Slowing is not a tool that is in common use these days. Most of us are running faster and faster. Slowing is necessary if we're going to listen to God's direction for our lives, and to get involved with His projects.

Some questions for you: Is your pace sustainable? Can you keep going at your current speed, or do you need to slow to a pace that you can manage? What do you need to stop doing? Is there anything that you're currently doing, and you already know that it's not part of God's agenda for your life? What do you sense He's asking you to stop?

Are you skimming on relationships? Are you going so fast that you don't have time to spend with those who are close to you? Is it time to stop so that you can spend time with the projects God has already given you - your marriage, your kids, your grandkids? If you're skimming on your relationship with God, what steps do you need to take to slow to the point you can spend some time with Him? Not as a burden. God wants to have a relationship with you that is based on His love for you.

Are you going slow enough to hear God's voice? God sometimes forces us to hear His voice. Other times, He speaks softly, and we only hear Him when we take the time to listen.

This past week, I was in a rush. I know, I need this sermon too. I had to get the kids to school, but I forgot something in the house. I pulled the car into the driveway, got out of the car, and unlocked the back door. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that the car was rolling back. I had forgotten to leave the car in gear. I called for my daughter to yank the emergency brake, but she had never paid attention to where it's located before. I had to go run and yank the brake so that it would stop before the rolling car caused an accident.

A lot of us are rolling and headed for trouble, and we're not exactly sure where the emergency brake is. God can come in and yank the brake and slow us down if He has too. Or, we can choose to slow down ourselves, to avoid the accident, and to take some time to ask God what He'd like us to do.

Slowing is essential for a soul that's listening to God. I'm going to invite you to find a way to slow this week and to spend some time listening to God.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

The Great Invitation (Isaiah 55:1-13)

Stage set with two tables: a small one with stale bread and junk food, and a second table set with clean, clear water, wine, milk, cheese, bread, and grapes

I'd like to give you an invitation today, one that is 2,700 years old. Despite being so old, it's not a stale one. It's an invitation that was given to a small group of discouraged people on the other end of the earth. We have almost nothing in common with this group, but the invitation is as relevant to us today as it was to them then. As best, I can, I want to offer you the same choice that they were given back then.

On one hand, I want to offer you the best of what this world has to offer. I mean everything. Take it all in, suck the marrow out of life, live as fully as you can. Enjoy the best food, make as much money as you can, build relationships that satisfy your soul, and do all that you can to be happy. This is one choice that was offered to the people 2,700 years ago, and it's a choice that's still before us today.

To be fair, I need to give you the fine print. It seems that people who make this choice are not satisfied. This is surprising, because you'd think that living this way would be satisfying. Halle Berry says of beauty, "Beauty is essentially meaningless, and it is always transitory." Brad Pitt, movie star and not a bad-looking guy, says:

Man, I know all these things are supposed to seem important to us-the car, the condo, our version of success-but if that's the case, why is the general feeling out there reflecting more impotence and isolation and desperation and loneliness?...I'm telling you, once you've got everything, then you're just left with yourself. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it doesn't help you sleep any better, and you don't wake up any better because of it.

It's not just the movie stars either. It's estimated that we, who live in North America, enjoy a higher standard of living than 99.4 percent of the 80 billion human beings who've ever lived. Yet we're not content. "Our lives are characterized by too much of a good thing," someone has said, "excess at every turn." We're surrounded by so much food that obesity has become a national crisis, are tempted by so much entertainment and information and stuff to buy that we sleep three hours a day less than our grandparents. In the words of a 1987 song, despite having so much, we "still haven't found what we're looking for."

The passage we're looking at today describes this first choice this way:

Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen, and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul! (Isaiah 55:2)

Another way to ask this is, "Does this really satisfy you?" The people who received this message were spending their labor - their very lives - for things that are needless, that really didn't satisfy. It's like spending money on stale bread or junk food when you really need something to satisfy way down deep - for a lifetime of Happy Meals with plastic toys that provide a temporary thrill but provide nothing of lasting value.

The second choice that's offered is so surprising that I need to give you a bit of background before I give you the invitation. The invitation is found in the book of Isaiah. The prophet was looking forward to a time when the nation would be in exile. The people would be in defeat, their spirit broken. They would feel like God's promises to them had been irreparably broken and forgotten. They would tempted to settle for Babylon and all that it offered. They would not be satisfied, but they could hope for no more. To these people, and to us today, the invitation comes:

Hey there! All who are thirsty,
come to the water!
Are you penniless?
Come anyway-buy and eat!
Come, buy your drinks, buy wine and milk.
Buy without money-everything's free!

Why do you spend your money on junk food,
your hard-earned cash on cotton candy?
Listen to me, listen well: Eat only the best,
fill yourself with only the finest. (Isaiah 55:1-2 The Message)

I told you that this is an invitation. That was putting it a little mildly. There are twelve imperatives in the first three verses. To put it in plain English, this is not just an invitation. It's pretty close to an order. All throughout this passage, you see that the invitation is given with a strong sense of urgency. To people who are almost going to settle with what they've got, God invites them into a completely new way of living.

This wasn't a blip in God's purposes for his people. Jesus Christ, the one we believe to be the Son of God, said, "My purpose is to give life in all its fullness" (John 10:10). The invitation that God offers is to the fullest possible life, to satisfaction and nourishment, to living the life that was intended for us. I'd like to unpack this invitation a little and simply present it to you for you to choose for yourself.

I want to describe the invitation in three ways this morning.

1. It's an invitation for your desires to be satisfied

The invitation that is set before you today is for your deepest desires to be satisfied. It almost sounds wrong to say that God is interested in satisfying our desires. God would like to satisfy our deepest desires. C.S. Lewis said:

Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

God's invitation in verse 1 is:

Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost. (NIV)

We're offered three things: water, wine, and milk. We're offered more later - the "richest of fare" - but I want to think about these three beverages. These three beverages correspond to three of the deepest needs that every one of us has.

Water is what we need for refreshment. Have you ever been absolutely parched? You're dehydrated, thirsty, desperate. Water is what you want and nothing else. God invites us to receive refreshment, restoration, reviving, a new beginning. "He leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul" (Psalm 23:2-3 NIV).

Water is fine for refreshment, but we need more than water. When we need nourishment, we turn to milk. When you want a baby to grow, you give her milk again and again. "God is not just for emergencies and mountain peaks. He is for health in the long haul. He invites you not only to come alive with water, but to be stable and strong with milk" (John Piper).

And God offers wine. Wine is more than we need. It is not for our survival; it is a luxury. There is something inside of us that doesn't want to just live. God has created us with a desire for exhilaration, to dance, shout, sing, and laugh. God wants to revive us with his water, nourish us with his milk, and give us endless exhilaration with his wine. It's offered freely and plentifully. He calls us not just to drink but to enjoy.

What do these drinks represent? Ultimately, they are an invitation to enjoy God himself. He is the one who can bring satisfaction to your soul. The psalmist wrote:

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26 NIV)

C. S. Lewis compared us to a car that runs on gasoline:

A car is made to run on petrol [gasoline], and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

God's invitation is for you to give this up - junk food and stale bread - to enjoy Himself, the one who can satisfy your soul.

God offers an invitation for your desires to be satisfied. I want to describe this invitation a second way this morning:

2. It's an invitation that will satisfy the desires of others

God continues in Isaiah 55:

Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake. I am ready to make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the mercies and unfailing love that I promised to David. He displayed my power by being my witness and a leader among the nations. You also will command the nations, and they will come running to obey, because I, the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious. (Isaiah 55:3-5)

God promises in these verses to make a covenant with his people corresponding somehow to the covenant that he made with David. It's interesting, this covenant with David. David is almost as often a negative example as he is a positive one. He does not have an unblemished record of faithfulness to God, yet is still the recipient of God's love and his promise by an unbreakable oath.

David wasn't a recipient of God's promises for his own benefit. Verse 4 says that David was a "witness to the peoples, a leader and a commander of the peoples." Verse 5 says that just as David's life was a witness, our lives - those of us who find our satisfaction in God - will "summon nations," that we're endowed "with splendor."

I love the idea here. God says that our new way of life is going to be so distinctive that the people around us will take notice and be drawn to God because of us. It's not that we're perfect - David wasn't. But God says he's going to make our lives distinctive so that those who don't know God will be drawn to God through us.

Think about those who received this invitation. "You will summon nations you know not." They probably said, "You've got to be kidding." They were in captivity. They weren't even on the map as a nation. When you're conquered by another nation and not even home, it's hard to imagine nations flocking to you. But it happened. Imperfect though we may be, as unlikely as it might seem given our current circumstances, God will draw people to Himself through us.

In the year he was elected president, Jimmy Carter was one of three men invited to speak to the 17,000 delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention. Each had a five-minute time limit.

The first of the three presenters was the eloquent evangelist, Billy Graham. The speaker following Graham was a truck driver. The man was not well educated, and seated beside the next U.S. president, the truck driver shared that he had never given a speech in his life. Nervously he confessed, "I don't think I can live through it. I just can't do it."

After Billy Graham gave his powerful talk, the truck driver rose to speak and stood silently before the audience. Taking a glass of water handed to him, he mumbled into the microphone.

"I was always drunk, and didn't have any friends. The only people I knew were men like me who hung around the bars in the town where I lived."

The truck driver went on to describe how someone told him about Christ. Once becoming a Christian, he wanted to tell others about the Lord. Spending time in Bible study and with other Christian men prepared him for witnessing. Since he felt comfortable in barrooms, he decided to talk to people there. The bartender wasn't sympathetic, telling the new convert he was bad for business and a nuisance.

Not discouraged, the truck driver kept on with his mission, and in time the people at the bar began asking questions. He said, "At first they treated me like a joke, but I kept up with the questions and when I couldn't answer one, I went and got the answer and came back with it. Fourteen of my friends became Christians."

Carter writes, "The truck driver's speech, of course, was the highlight of the convention. I don't believe anyone who was there will ever forget that five-minute fumbling statement-or remember what I or even Billy Graham had to say."

God will draw others to Himself through the most unlikely people - people just like you and me.

God's offered you an invitation for your desires to be satisfied, and for your life to be distinctive. I have one more description of this invitation.

3. It's an invitation you can depend on

God invites the people to come to him urgently, to seek him while he may be found. He urges them to come and be pardoned. The question is raised in their minds and maybe in ours, "How can these downtrodden, wiped out, wiped off the map servants of the Lord receive such a miraculous transformation?" The answer comes to us in verses 8 to 11:

"My thoughts are completely different from yours," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

"The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

God's ways are bigger and different than our thoughts. Any time we think we know what God is thinking, think again. God's Word is reliable. We don't need to doubt that God can make this type of transformation in our lives. God's promises are reliable. His plans aren't like ours, that change on a whim. His power isn't limited like ours. He can pull this off. God's Word is reliable. He will transform your life.

If you doubt that your life can be transformed, that your deepest desires can be satisfied, then you don't have to. God's Word is reliable. It is not your power or even the amount of your faith that will lead to this transformation. It's not about you. It's about God's power and the reliability of his Word.

How do we accept this invitation?

Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the people turn from their wicked deeds. Let them banish from their minds the very thought of doing wrong! Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7)

Here is the heart of the invitation. To live, to really live, begin to seek the LORD. Go on a search for Him. Settle for nothing less. Give up all the junk food, the things that don't satisfy. Leave them behind and refuse to settle for anything less than the One who can satisfy your soul.

Everything has been done. The table has been set. It would be disappointing if those who were invited failed to come.


The invitation has been given. God has invited you to come, to buy, to eat, to enjoy. The choice is before you. Will you come?

For those of you who are distant, come. Draw near to God. He will not reject you. Draw near. Come to Him.

It's time to buy. It's not time to analyze. You don't have the money anyway, but God says, "Even you without the money, come and buy." Accept the transaction. You may not be able to pay for it, but there is one who has paid the price. Receive what God offers freely.

Drink and eat. God is not a thing to be studied. He is a person to be experienced. He is food and drink for the soul. Come to the banquet today and experience all that God has prepared for you.

In the next weeks, we're going to look at how to live as those who have been transformed by God's power. Today, simply respond to his invitation to come, to buy, to eat, to enjoy.


He brought me to his banqueting table...


You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where briers grew, myrtles will sprout up. This miracle will bring great honor to the LORD'S name; it will be an everlasting sign of his power and love. (Isaiah 55:12-13)


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

We Care: People-Focused (Matthew 9:35-38)

The past couple of weeks, we've been talking about what our church values. These are the things we care most about. We're returning to a few of what drives us, what keeps us pumped, what is most important about who we are. We've talked about loving any person at any time at any cost. We've talked about being visionary - believing that God can work through us to make an eternal difference, even if our own efforts seem insignificant and we sometimes feel weak. Today we're going to finish by talking about one more value: the value of being focused on people.

Ever play I Spy? One person says, "I spy with my little eye something that is..." and everyone else has to guess what they're talking about. Whenever I play this game, I'm amazed at how we see things differently. You and I could be looking at the exact same scene, and we can see things completely differently. You are going to go home today having noticed things that I hadn't even noticed. This happens all the time.

Seeing is more important than we realize. Specifically, seeing the right things is critical. Elton John, the British singer, used alcohol and cocaine for years. In the early 1990s, he gave them up and said his eyes opened up and he began seeing things he hadn't noticed in years. Eyesight is important spiritually as it is physically.

Today's message is all about seeing. Seeing is surprisingly important if we want to serve the way that Jesus wants us to. I want to look at a hinge passage in Matthew 9 today. It's a hinge passage because it is placed deliberately between two sections, and it links the two. This passage is the key to tying two sections of the book together, and it gives us an important clue into how we can serve like Jesus did.

In Matthew 8 and 9, you have story after story of Jesus healing people. He cast out demons, healed paraplegics, forgave sins, raised the dead, gave sight to the blind. Matthew 9:35 says, "Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives" (The Message). This is what the ministry of Jesus was all about. It's exactly what I want for our lives to be about - bringing wholeness and healing and hope to broken lives. This is the section on one side of the hinge that we're going to look at today.

The other side of the hinge is found in Matthew 10. Matthew 10:1 says, "Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness." Matthew 10 is all about the followers of Jesus serving just like Jesus. So you have two important sections that need to be tied together.

The question for me is: how can we serve like Jesus? How can our church have the same influence on society that Jesus had? How can we serve like Jesus?

There's a hint in the hinge section that ties Matthew 9 and 10 together. Matthew 9:36-38 says:

He felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn't know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, "The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers for his fields."

The key to serving like Jesus is that we also see like Jesus. When we look at people, serving them like Jesus begins with seeing them the same way that Jesus does. It starts with seeing before we ever get to doing. Let's unpack this a little.

When we see people, what do we notice? First impressions count for a lot. It's hard not to form an impression based on their appearance. Clothing and personal style counts for a lot. Before we ever talk to a person, we can guess a lot about their personality by the way they wear their hair, the clothes they're wearing. Our guesses are usually right on too. Personal style speaks loudly.

Then there's affluence. Sometimes you can't tell how much a person is worth. Usually, though, it's not hard to guess. I've got friends who look rich even when they're dressing down on the weekends. The cars they drive, the houses they own, all speak pretty loudly about their affluence. A friend of mine works for Rolex. As part of her employment, she gets to wear a Rolex as long as she works there. Since starting her job, she's noticed how many people wear Rolexes on the subway here in Toronto. Some people have a lot of money.

When you get past first impressions, we tend to refine our opinions of people. We find out that we like some people we weren't sure about at first. Other times, people that impressed us at first aren't that impressive the more we get to know them. We see people based on how much we like them and how much we enjoy being around them.

Back up a bit and look at groups of people. I don't know if you've been at a sporting event or a concert, or even church, and stopped paying attention to the event and started looking around. What do you see? When you fly in to Toronto at night and see the lights of the city, and all the cars buzzing around, what do you take notice of?

Jesus saw something that I don't always see when I see people. The NIV for verse 36 says, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." This is an indictment of the religious leaders of the day. The Scriptures are full of this "sheep without a shepherd" image, and it's usually describing a time when the religious leaders of the day stopped doing their job. You know what a sheep without a shepherd is? Dead meat. It's prey for other animals. Jesus noticed that the people were harassed. They didn't have answers to life's greatest challenges, and the fault was, at least in part, because the religious leaders of the day weren't doing their job.

This gets me. I don't think we usually see people this way. Notice that Jesus wasn't blaming the people for being harassed. This isn't an indictment on them. He felt compassion on them. It's easy to blame people for not believing the same way that we do, but it's a lot harder to look at them and to feel compassion, and then wonder if we're doing enough to convey the wholeness and the hope and the health that Jesus showed in his life. This is what Jesus saw as he looked at people.

Jesus noticed as well that they were helpless - that they were experiencing distressing problems and unable to care for themselves. He looked past the external pressures they were facing and saw something much deeper. He saw a need that the people felt, but they couldn't put their fingers on. It's the emptiness that we've all felt sometimes, the desire that, as U2 sang, we still haven't found what we're looking for.

The key to serving like Jesus starts here: it starts by seeing people the way that Jesus sees them. It means looking past the externals and really caring about people. They matter more to Christ than we know.

C.S. Lewis wrote:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinners--no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat, the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

It starts, as C.S. Lewis says, with taking people seriously. Even before we do anything to act, to serve, it starts with seeing people the way that Jesus sees them. It's caring about people the same way that Jesus does.

It's interesting what Jesus says. We tend to think that we're ready to act to meet people's needs, but they're just not ready. Jesus turns this on its head. He says that the people are ready, but we aren't ready to go and care for people this way. Think about it. Jesus was facing more needs than he could meet by Himself. There was no way that he could by physically present everywhere to meet every need. The problem wasn't that there weren't enough needs to meet. The problem is that Jesus couldn't be everywhere. The solution is that his followers go out and take Jesus with them, to be the presence of Jesus to people who have needs and are ready to have them met.

Jesus said, "So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers for his fields." Don't pray for more needs. Pray that we'll be sensitive to the needs that are already there. Pray that we'll overcome our inertia and get out there with and care for people. I'm not just talking about preaching at them; that's not what Jesus did. He taught them, but he also cared for them. He healed them. He brought healing and wholeness to them.

Within our immediate community, there is no shortage of people who are ready to receive friendship, hope, and wholeness. They probably aren't ready to be preached at. They are ready to be seen and loved. They are ready to receive hope and care. The problem is not the shortage of needs. The problem is the shortage of people ready to go.

We talk at Richview about being people-focused, because we believe that people matter most to God. What matters in the end are not the programs that we run or the facilities or the normal things we think about as a church. Those are only tools. We exist, we serve, because we want to love people the same way Jesus did. We want to see them the way that Jesus sees them.

There's an old rabbinic saying: "The day is short and the task is great and the laborers are idle and the wage is abundant and the master of the house is urgent." Are you ready to see? Are you ready to go?


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

We Care: Visionary

Today's message is different than the one I would have given you a couple of years ago. I've changed my mind. A couple of years ago, I would have talked about being visionary in a completely different way. I would have told you that it's important to have a vision for your life, a vision for your ministry, to see what could and should be, and to let that dictate your life. I'm no longer sure that I agree with these thoughts.

So today I want to give you a message about being visionary, but it's not the type of vision that you're thinking about. The old type of visionary is exemplified by this cartoon:

Cartoon showing two men sleeping at a meeting. The caption reads, "It was safe to say that Pastor Mel's vision statement hadn't yet caught fire."

You could call this type of vision strengths-based vision. It's the type of vision that says that aims to predict or create the future. It's the type of vision that lays out a plan for the future and shoots on it. It's the vision that you read about in books and it's the vision that is practiced in the business world. It's also the type of vision that is slowly falling out of failure, and I think for good reason.

What's wrong with this type of vision? Recent experience has taught us that this type of vision isn't doing too well. If you look at the business world, you find that this type of visionary leadership has led companies into all kinds of trouble - scandals at worst, poor results at best. Jim Collins and other authors are questioning the myth of the heroic visionary leader who can predict the future. At the very least, this type of visionary leadership needs rethinking.

This is even more relevant to those of us who listen to what God has to say through Scripture. Look through the Bible at the list of people who were used by God in ways that they couldn't have envisioned: Joseph, who rose to the top through slavery and prison; Moses, who spent years in exile contrary to his own vision; Peter, whose entire life was interrupted by Jesus; the early church, which spread not because of a visionary plan but because of persecution. There just aren't a lot of examples of strengths-based vision in the Bible. Who would choose this route to accomplishing their vision:

But others trusted God and were tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life. Some were mocked, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in dungeons. Some died by stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed with the sword. Some went about in skins of sheep and goats, hungry and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world. They wandered over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. (Hebrews 11:35-38)

These people were not visionary in the normal sense of the word, but there's no escaping the fact that they were faithful and followed God's call in their lives.

James lists a few problems with our old definition of vision:

Look here, you people who say, "Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit." How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog-it's here a little while, then it's gone. What you ought to say is, "If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that." Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

The old type of vision is overrated. As James says, it doesn't work for three reasons. One, our knowledge is too limited. We can't predict the future. Two, our lives are uncertain. Even what we can predict can change instantly. Three, this type of vision is a declaration of independence from God. Somebody's said that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. There has got to be a better way.

So today, I want to talk to you about a different type of vision. I still think that vision is crucial to living, but I don't think it's the type of vision that we normally think about. Vision is the ability to see, but instead of seeing a future that we can predict and create, I want to talk about a vision that sees something completely different.

Today, we're reading a story about the apostle Paul at one of the lowest points of his ministry. He's been beaten up a few cities earlier in Philippi. His plans hadn't really been successful. Paul wrote later that he came to the city of Corinth, where this story takes place, "in weakness-timid and trembling" (1 Corinthians 2:3). Paul was used to a rough reception, but in Athens he received something worse - polite contempt. He was worried about some of the other churches. We don't know all the details of his situation, but we know that this was a low point in Paul's ministry.

The solution wasn't to come up with a better vision, at least in the conventional sense of the word. The solution actually came from God. In Acts 18, we read of an unusual event that took place at this time that provided hope to Paul at this low point in his ministry:

One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, "Don't be afraid! Speak out! Don't be silent! For I am with you, and no one will harm you because many people here in this city belong to me." So Paul stayed there for the next year and a half, teaching the word of God. (Acts 18:9-11)

God gave Paul a different type of vision: the ability to see things from God's perspective. While we may never have a vision from God in the same sense - the Lord appearing to us - we can have they type of vision that sees our reality from God's perspective. This vision can give us hope. The type of vision I'm talking about is not strengths-based vision as much as it is grace-based vision. It's not a vision that depends on the accuracy of our plans and our abilities to get things done. It's the type of vision that sees God working through us even when we're weak, and even when we're down. It's the type of vision that believes God is with us, even when circumstances tell us otherwise.

This type of vision has three bedrock beliefs:

One: God works best in my weakness

The old type of vision believes that God works best when we're strong and when we have it together. This type of vision believes that God works best when we're weak, when we think we have nothing to offer. This is great for those of us who find ourselves frequently above our heads in what we can handle ourselves. This is exactly the type of situation that God works through best. God works through our weaknesses.

How is this visionary? If you look at yourself, it's as plain as day what you can do in your own strength. You have certain abilities and skills. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have a fairly good idea of some things that we do well and some things that we don't do well. Vision in this case is seeing beyond our own list of strengths and weaknesses, and realizing that God is not limited by this list. God often chooses to take an area in which we're weak and use us most powerfully in this particular area. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians:

Each time he said, "My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

We've got a grease trap in our kitchens here at the church and Residence. We have to hire a company to come in and take all that grease away. I heard the other day that they have cars now that can run on grease and all kinds of other garbage. It got me thinking that we ought to sell the grease instead of paying for someone to cart it off. The very thing that we don't like and would like to discard is the very thing that God can use. We want to get rid of our weaknesses, but God is often at work most powerfully in these very areas.

I wish you had a vision for this in your life. My Sunday school teacher when I was a kid was a bundle of weaknesses. He was not someone that a kid would call cool in any sense of the word. He talked too loud, he looked a bit funny, he had a dead-end job. But somehow he had a vision for how God could use him despite all of that. He's had an influence on a number of kids, not because he was strong, but because he believed God could use him just the way he was. Get a vision for how God can use you even when you're weak.

The second bedrock belief is somewhat related.

Two: God multiplies the small.

Whenever Paul started a church, there were only a few people who responded. For every one or two, there were ten or more who rejected his message and refused to listen to him. Sometimes he must have felt that he was wasting his time. When God spoke to Paul in Acts 18, he reminded Paul that he had many people in the city. Paul couldn't see them. There was no evidence of their response. But they were there. God multiplies the small. We may not see the results of what we're doing. There may be little evidence of our effectiveness. Vision means that we look beyond what we can see in terms of results and realize that God can use and multiply the small.

Many of us want to do big things for God, and that's great. God isn't limited to using us when we're doing big things for him. Some of the most significant things we can do for God are not big things but small things. Sometimes it's just hanging in there. It could be showing kindness to an individual, even to a stranger. Jesus taught that offering someone a cup of cold water can be an act of eternal significance. There is nothing too small for God to use.

Sometimes God nudges us to stop trying to do big things for him, and to chose the small instead. The Bible records the story of Gideon, who started with a big army, but God reduced it to a small army. "We may easily be too big for God to use, but never too small" (D.L. Moody).

Think a dollar is too small to give? 1.3 billion people live on less than a dollar a day. 3 billion people live on under two dollars a day. A dollar can go a long way.

Think a cup of cold water is too small to give? 1.3 billion people have no access to clean water. 3 billion have no access to sanitation. A cup of cold water can make all the difference in the world.

Many of us are so busy trying to do big things that we never take time for doing the small things. Vision means seeing that God can take the smallest acts and transform them into acts of eternal significance.

One more bedrock belief:

Three: God is at work despite appearances

When there are few results, and it looks like we're working for nothing, it's easy to quit and to give up. That's where Paul needed to be encouraged. We can't always see God at work. Sometimes there is no evidence of God using our efforts. Vision sees beyond that. Vision believes that God is at work even when we're down, even when it looks like there are no results. Vision believes that nothing we do for God, no matter how small and insignificant, is ever wasted: "So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The type of vision that I wish for you is not a vision that you can plan your future and be a heroic leader in your life and ministry. The type of vision that I wish for you is the insight to see that God can use you even when you don't have it all together, even when you're only doing small things for God, even when it looks like there are no results.

We have a ministry fair today. Some of our ministries are out there showing what they want to do. We want you to know some of what people are doing at Richview. They're all attempts to love people and to serve God. Vision is seeing how God can use our efforts in some of these initiatives - even in doing the smallest things - to make an eternal difference.

Leonard Sweet says, "A life of mission is the mission of life. To be born is to be chosen - chosen for mission. In you're alive, your mission on earth is unfinished."

My prayer for you is that when you're down like Paul, when you think that nothing's happening, when you're discouraged, that you will be visionary - that you will see God at work in smallness and weakness, often when there's no evidence. That is true vision.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.