Faith Church

Dangerous Prayer – Lead My Life | Sermon from 8/12/2018

Today we are finishing up with the last of the four dangerous prayers found in Psalm 139.  These 4 prayers are dangerous because they expose in us things that we often try to hide or ignore.  When we ask God to search my heart it is because we know there are things that we love that we shouldn’t, and we know there are passions and desires that need to brought in line with God’s will.  We ask God to test my thoughts because our thoughts are not always pleasing and acceptable to God, and we know that too often our thinking limits what God wants to do in our lives.  Last week we asked God to seek out my sin because we know there are things in our lives that we need to confess and turn away from.  We know that it is time to stop justifying our sin by saying, it’s not hurting anyone or it’s not that bad, and start being honest about who we are and what we are doing. Today we pray what might be the most dangerous prayer, because while the others have to do with cleaning up our hearts and minds and confessing our sin, this prayer will require us to live differently.  Lead my life is a prayer asking God to move us into a new lifestyle where we set new goals, embrace new attitudes, and engage in a new way of living.  Once again, I want to ask you to join me reading Psalm 139:23-24.  Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.While this prayer is dangerous because it will mean a new way of living, it is a prayer we can make with boldness and peace because we aren’t asking a tyrant to lead us, we are asking a Shepherd.  King David, who gave us these dangerous prayers, knew God as a good shepherd.  It was David who said, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for His names sake.David knows God as one who cares for his people and patiently leads them to good places and along right paths, so we are praying to one who loves us and wants to give us life so will lead us with tenderness, love, and peace.

But the way everlasting, that we ask God to lead us in, is dangerous because it will not be the comfortable way of the world and it will require something from us.  Primarily what this way will require from us is to Submit.  There is no following God until we are willing to give up control.  Asking God to lead us requires us to be willing to submit our will to God’s will and our ways to God’s way.  Even Jesus had to be willing to submit.

For Jesus, the way everlasting, meant dying on the cross.  Jesus made it clear that God’s plan would include going to Jerusalem where he would be betrayed by those he trusted, condemned by those in leadership, and crucified on a cross.  God’s way was the way of the cross, and so it was dangerous for Jesus to pray the prayer, Lead My Life, but he did.  In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, not my will but thy will be done.  Knowing that God’s will meant a painful death on a cross, Jesus still prayed, not my will but thy will be done.

This is what we mean when we pray, Lead my Life.  We are saying, not my will but thy will be done, which means giving God the reigns to our life and allowing God to do with us what God wants to do.  John Wesley said it this way in his covenant prayer:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.

This is what it means when we pray, Lead my life.  It’s dangerous to lay our future before God and say, take me where you want me to go.  Put before me what you want me to do.  Let me have what you want me to have.  Submitting ourselves fully to God is dangerous, but it is the only way to everlasting life, and it is the only way to experience the fullness of life that God has for us here and now.  As long as we follow our own will and way, we will come up empty – it is only in following God’s way that we begin to experience the fullness and grace and power of life.

The second reason this prayer is dangerous is because God’s will always involves Service.  Jesus said that he came to serve and not to be served, so if we are going to be led by God in the way of Jesus it will be into a life of service.  In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a story about those who followed him and those who didn’t.  Those who followed Jesus were described as sheep and those who didn’t follow Jesus were called goats.  Not Greatest Of All Time, but goats as in the animals.  The sheep got to inherit the kingdom of God and the goats did not, and the difference between the sheep and the goats was that the sheep were willing to serve. Matthew 25:33-46.

The way everlasting, the way of God’s kingdom, the way of eternal life is a life of service, where when we see anyone in need, we do what we can to help meet that need.  We feed the hungry, clothe the naked and care for those who are sick and oppressed.  Before the Passover meal, when Jesus gathered with all his disciples, he was the one who took the role of a servant and washed the feet of the others and then said, I have set an example for you.  You should serve one another.  There really is no way everlasting, or way of God, without serving others because there is no way everlasting without love, and love put into action is service.

1 John 3:17-18.  How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?  Little children, let us love not in word or speech, but in truth and action.  

So there is no love without service, which means that if the way of God, which leads to life, is a way of love, than it must also be a way of service.  What service is God leading us to consider?  What needs in others do we see?  What issues burden us?  What is God asking us to do something about?  These are the places for us to consider serving.

If you have never thought about serving in the name of Jesus, than I want to invite you to serve today.  Don’t put it off, don’t give yourself time to pull away, commit right now to coming back here at 3:00 to serve our community as we set up for the blessing of the backpacks.  Or show up at 4:00 and serve by standing in prayer for our children, schools, and community.  Or come back around 5:30 and help us tear down and clean up.  Serve today and begin to allow God to lead you in a new way of life.  You don’t need any experience or skills, just come and make yourself available to God and allow him to use you in service.

The great thing about serving is that it not only leads to everlasting life but it leads to a better life here and now.  Serving others fills us with a sense of deeper meaning and purpose.  Serving others helps us connect with people and feel less alone and isolated.  Serving others fills us with compassion and love which brings us life.  Serving others helps lift us out of depression, improves our physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing and so serving in so many ways is the way everlasting.  It is dangerous to step out and serve but it will lead us to life.

Asking God to lead us is dangerous because it doesn’t just lead to service, it also leads to Sacrifice.  Matthew 16:24-25.  For Jesus, the way everlasting was the way of the cross.  Jesus didn’t just submit to God and serve, he was willing to sacrifice, and that is part of God’s way for us as well.

The cross for us is not going to be a physical execution, but it will mean being willing to go beyond what is comfortable or convenient in our service to others.  There are times when being led by God calls us to give up all that we have and all that we are, and the direction we are going – to go where God leads us.  For the disciples, to be led by Jesus meant giving up their fishing business and then learning from Jesus how to call others to follow Jesus.

Some people hear a call from God that is so personal and profound that they leave behind jobs and careers and family to embark on a new path that might lead them to places around the world where there is great need.  Some people are led by God into some of the most dangerous and difficult places in the world in order to share the love and grace of God.  Some people have given financially in ways that have significantly changed their lives and lifestyle in order to follow where God has been leading them.  Sacrifice is part of the way everlasting that we have to be open to because it is part of what it means for us to follow Jesus.  We have to be willing to take up our cross and follow Jesus.

And finally, this is a dangerous prayer because the way everlasting isn’t a destination we can always see but a journey we take Step by Step.  The first person called by God was a man named Abram, who later became Abraham.  Abraham was called by God to leave his home and go to the place that God would show him.  God didn’t point out the destination and then give him a detailed map and itinerary of the trip, it was a call to be led into new life step by step.

God invites us to follow him step by step.  We don’t know where we will end up and that is probably a good thing because if we knew the final outcome, we might not take the first step.  If I had been told that I would graduate seminary and be a local pastor in Altoona, PA, I may not have entered seminary because I did not want to be a local pastor and I had no intention of living in PA.  But step by step God led me to a place where I was not only willing but excited to be a local pastor and even excited to live in Altoona, PA.

The people of Israel had to leave Egypt and trust that God would lead them into the Promised Land.  They didn’t have a map.  There was no GPS telling them when they needed to recalculate.  They had to be willing to trust God.  The disciples were called by Jesus to drop their nets, to leave behind their families and businesses and communities to follow Jesus, but they didn’t know what that journey was going to look like.  If they had known that in three years it would lead them to Jesus being crucified on a cross, my guess is they may not have gone, but step, by step, God led them.  Step by step they grew and had a deeper understanding of God’s guidance and direction.

Being led step by step is difficult and dangerous because we don’t know where it will lead, but it is the way everlasting because it is the way of God.  Faith and trust is the way of God, so any journey with God is going to have moments where all we can see is the step in front of us.  When we ask God to lead my life, we are asking God to show us the one step that is in front of us today.  What is the one step we need to take today?  What is the one decision we need to make?  What is the one act of service we need to start?  The one prayer we need to pray?  If we will take this one step, God will lead us to the next one, and the next one, and the next one, and we will be on the way everlasting, the way that will lead us into God’s kingdom, the way of life and life eternal.

This is a dangerous prayer because it calls us to Submit, Serve, Sacrifice and to move forward Step by Step, but this is the way of God which makes it the way everlasting, the way of life and life eternal.  I invite you to pray this dangerous prayer and find life.  I invite you to pray this dangerous prayer with full confidence and peace, because the one you are praying to, is the Shepherd who will not lead you astray, but lead you to paths of righteousness and life, the way everlasting.

Next Steps
Dangerous Prayers – Lead My Life

Pray: Search me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

1. Shepherd.  See Psalm 23 and John 10:1-10.
• Why is the image of a shepherd a comforting one for us when we make this dangerous prayer?
• Where have you seen the hand of the good shepherd leading you in life?

2. Submission.  Each day this week pray this prayer
I am no longer my own, but thine.  Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.  Put me to doing, put me to suffering.  Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee.  Let me be full, let me be empty.  Let me have all things, let me have nothing.  I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.  AMEN
• What part of this prayer is the most difficult for you?
• What one thing is God asking you to do this week in response to this prayer?

3. Serve.  Why must service always be part of following God?
• What service has been meaningful in your life?
• Where is God calling you to serve?

4. Sacrifice.  Where is God calling you to go from service to sacrifice?  What one sacrifice could you make this week in order to more faithfully follow God?

5. Step by Step.  What one step is God asking you to take this week?  What do you have to do to take it?

Sunday Morning

8:15 am: Traditional Worship Service with Nursery
10:45 am: Contemporary Worship Service with Nursery and Children’s Church

512 Hughes Street Bellefonte, PA 16823

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