Keys to A New
God’s Abilities and Power
I remember a
formula that someone came up with as a definition for personal
responsibility some years ago.
Ability = Responsibility
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.
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
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.
is responding in total dependence upon God's ability and power to make it
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.
“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.
"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).
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.
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.
"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).
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.
with passing up a door of opportunity is that when God shuts the door no
one can open it.
"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.
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
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.
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.
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.
endeavoring to give them spiritual "eyes to see" and "ears to hear." We
must have spiritual sight to take advantage of the responsibilities
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
become totally dependent upon Moses. They did not want to take the
responsibility for anything.
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
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
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
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).
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
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.
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.
"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.