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Keys to A New Beginning (3)


Responding to God’s Abilities and Power


Deuteronomy 4:1-40


Jim Davis


I remember a formula that someone came up with as a definition for personal responsibility some years ago.


Opportunity + Ability = Responsibility


This always sounded like a pretty good formula for responsibility. If you have an opportunity to do something that you have the ability to do, then you have a responsibility to do whatever it is that needs to be done.


However, I ran across, what I believe is a more encouraging definition of responsibility. Responsibility was defined as our response to God's ability. To be responsible is to respond with the ability God has given us to the doors of opportunities that God opens for us. This formula is a biblical formula note in the verses below that we are encouraged to serve with the strength God provides.


1 Peter 4:11

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ" (NIV).


It would be much easier to do what God is calling upon each of us to do if we could           see ourselves doing it with God's ability and God's strength. It would be more encouraging to live up to our responsibilities if we could see ourselves responding to the opportunities God has given us. If we could understand our response as God's call for each of us, wouldn't it be more encouraging to respond to God.


It would be more encouraging to live up to our responsibilities if we could see ourselves responding to the opportunities God has given us. If we could understand our response as God's call for each of us, wouldn't it be more encouraging to respond to God.


Responsibility is responding in total dependence upon God's ability and power to make it happen!


The Focus Must Be On God


The book of Deuteronomy simply repeats the story of the Israelites and the giving of the law, which was given in the previous books of the Pentateuch. But it's more than just boring repetition; it has a central purpose in mind. Moses is reminding them of what God has already done for them. As Moses writes, Israel is at the end of the forty-year wilderness journey. Moses is reminding them that they must focus on God's ability to prevent making the same mistakes of their past.


When you read Deuteronomy chapter four, you begin to realize that Moses is encouraging Israelites to measure their potential not by what they see in themselves, but by what they see in God.


Deuteronomy 4:32-40

“Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created man on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by miraculous signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?


You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire. Because he loved your forefathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out of Egypt by his Presence and his great strength, to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today.


Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time” (NIV).


Moses seeks to focus them on God's ability as they approach Canaan at the end of the forty-year journey.


Deuteronomy 3:21-25

"At that time I commanded Joshua:  'You have seen with your own eyes all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings. The LORD will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. Do not be afraid of them; the LORD your God himself will fight for you.'


"At that time I pleaded with the LORD: 'O Sovereign LORD, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do?'" (NIV).


We Must Remember Why Others Failed


As we come to the book of Deuteronomy all those that left Egypt who were over 21 years were either dead or about to die. That was God's punishment for failing to follow God's leading into Canaan. Now the new generation had their chance to step into the Promised Land.


Sometimes we need to be reminded of the failures those in our past have made. Those about to cross Jordan had nothing to do with making the decision that caused them to spend all those years in the wilderness. But they needed to be reminded of the mistakes that cost them the Promised Land.


Deuteronomy 1:26-36

"But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, 'The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go? Our brothers have made us lose heart. They say, 'The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.'' Then I said to you, "Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.'


"In spite of this, you did not trust in the LORD your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go. When the LORD heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 'Not a man of this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your forefathers, except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly'" (NIV).


Israel is reminded as they are about to take their last step into the Promised Land that "The Lord your God . . . fights for you . . . " Their first attempt to cross the Jordan was characterized by fear. Their circumstances had blinded them to God's ability.


As I study through the Bible, I realize that it takes more than the blessings of God to be a successful Christian. It takes more than open doors of opportunity. It takes Christians willing to pass through those doors once they are open. It takes Christian's willing to use the ability God has given them to take advantage of the opportunities.


The difficulty with passing up a door of opportunity is that when God shuts the door no one can open it.


Revelation 3:7-9

"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars-- I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. (NIV)


Take note of what happened to Israel when they decided to go to Canaan after God closed the door of opportunity.


Deuteronomy 1:40-46

But as for you, turn around and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea."

Then you replied, "We have sinned against the LORD. We will go up and fight, as the LORD our God commanded us." So every one of you put on his weapons, thinking it easy to go up into the hill country. But the LORD said to me, "Tell them, 'Do not go up and fight, because I will not be with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.'"


So I told you, but you would not listen. You rebelled against the LORD's command and in your arrogance you marched up into the hill country. The Amorites who lived in those hills came out against you; they chased you like a swarm of bees and beat you down from Seir all the way to Hormah. You came back and wept before the LORD, but he paid no attention to your weeping and turned a deaf ear to you. And so you stayed in Kadesh many days-- all the time you spent there. (NIV)


F. B. Meyer said, "Unbelief puts our circumstances between us and God. Faith puts God between us and our circumstances." Initially, Israel had allowed her circumstances to blind her to God's power and willingness to deliver them as they refused to cross over Jordan forty years earlier.


Israel had victimized herself by not living up to her God given potential. Is it little wonder why Moses was encouraging the Israelites to get a new mindset? They needed to believe that with God all things were possible. All God needed to accomplish his will for them was their faith in him. All they needed was an obedient faith. God would do the rest. If this new generation of Israelites could see nothing but God they would begin to learn that God is enough.


Moses was endeavoring to give them spiritual "eyes to see" and "ears to hear." We must have spiritual sight to take advantage of the responsibilities afforded us.


We must live our lives before God in trusting obedience as we use the abilities he has given us to take advantage of the doors of opportunity he has opened for us.


The transparency of Moses is very impressive and encouraging. In Deuteronomy chapter three Moses has just reminded Israel of his failure to enter the Promised Land as a result of taking his eyes off God. He reminds them how God was angry with him. His rod made Egypt tumble. He spoke to God face-to-face. Now he stands before Israel confessing his sins as he encourages Israel not to make the same mistakes again.


Israel was afraid to do what God was calling upon them to do. They should have been afraid not to follow God into the Promised Land.


Obedience Verifies our Personal Faith


The essence of sin is the refusal to recognize that we are accountable to God at all.

James tells us that a man who knows to do good and refuses to do it has sinned (James 4:17). This was Israel's failure. God's call was clear, but they refused to obey.


In the parable of the talents Jesus gives one person five talents, another person two talents and another person one talent. The person with five talents went to work with what God had given and gained five more talents. The person with two talents went to work with what God had given and gained two more talents. The person with one talent was afraid and so the talent was buried in the ground.


The story is the same whether it has to do with one person or a million. Two of these individuals verified their faith in God by using what God had given them to God's glory. The other failed to verify his faith in God. He was much like the Israelites who refused to cross Jordan at God's command.


There are many here today that need to verify their faith in God by obedience to God's call. It is the only way that you can assure yourself that you have a saving faith in God. Those who fail to do so will find themselves wandering in a wilderness or they will be cast out into outer darkness.


Why was the one talent person so afraid? God gave him the talent. Do you think for a moment that God gave the person something the person was incapable of managing? Even if a one-talent person fails, at least this person could say, well, I tried and failed. I don't think God would be gnashing his teeth at any person who tried and failed.


There is something that is much more scarce, something more rare than ability. It                    is the ability to recognize ability.


In Matthew 25 the scene of the judgment follows the parable of the talents. The scene of the judgment reveal those being judged for failing to give the thirsty drink, failing to feed the hungry, a failure to practice hospitality, failing to provide clothing to the naked and failing to visit those in prison. Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."


There are two many Christians that believe that what they have to offer wouldn't amount to anything anyway. However, Jesus indicates that the person with the least to give has the ability to become greatest in his kingdom. Jesus says in his kingdom the least would be the greatest.


All the one talent person had to do was to respond with what God had given with the ability and opportunity that God provided.


It is the simple things that make Christianity contagious. A cup of water for the thirsty, food for the hungry, shelter for the homeless, hospitality to strangers, etc. These things anyone can do.


Personal Responsibility Can't Be Delegated


Israel had become totally dependent upon Moses. They did not want to take the responsibility for anything.


Exodus 32:30-34

The next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin."


So Moses went back to the LORD and said, "Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin--but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written."


The LORD replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin." NIV


Moses did Israel's praying, and he even sought to repent for them, but God held Israel responsible. If you must always have someone else pushing you, you will really never do anything great. We must be motivated from within, not from without.


We can develop a "wilderness mentality." We want to have everything and do nothing. We have wishbone but no backbone. Jesus said, "For many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). Many are invited into the kingdom of Christ but few accept the chosen responsibility.


Joshua 1:1-9

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' aide: "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them-- to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates-- all the Hittite country-- to the Great Sea on the west. No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.


"'Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go'" (NIV).


One plain simple fact runs throughout these verses. The land of Canaan is theirs for the taking. God opens the door of opportunity again and God is going to use his abilities to drive the enemies out. The land inheritance promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is theirs, but they must respond using the ability given to them by God as they take advantage of the opportunities afforded by God.


Being made free from sin will not accomplish anything if we refuse the responsibility our freedom imposes.




Are you afraid of responsibility? When you meet the resistance of the world as you face your responsibility you must develop eyes that can see what God is doing and ears that will hear his call. This builds spiritual strength. If you do what is easy, you will remain weak and helpless.


When responsibility calls there is a tendency to wait for a more convenient season. There is a tendency to hold back until it won’t cost anything or want be so difficult.


Ecclesiastes 11:4

"Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap" (NIV).


If we wait for all the conditions to be favorable we will not sow or reap. God expects us to be responsible regardless of the conditions. He wants us to do something that will produce fruit. If we do not use the gifts and talents that God has given us, then we are not being responsible over what God has entrusted to us.


When we wait for a more convenient season we will probably wait until the door of opportunity closes. When it is shut, only God can reopen it.


To sensible men, every day is a day of reckoning. The greatest thing is to be found at one's post as a child of God, living each day as though it were our last, but planning as though our world might last a hundred years.





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