Good morning and greetings to our young people. Last week we learned that the Apostle Paul likened our Christian walk to a race. First, let’s review the following scripture.
1 Corinthians 9:24
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.”
We know we are in a race, a “Christian race,” and last week, we were running into a stadium with crowds of people cheering for us to finish. Then Noah came to run with us and shared a few things he learned in his life.
- You can make a difference.
- You can make a difference for future generations.
- You can make a difference for God.
- You can make a difference at any age.
My favorite is number four. You can make a difference at any age. It doesn’t matter how young or how old you are; God can use you. You are never too young or too old to make a difference for God. As Noah left our side, he gave us this promise, “When you see a rainbow, remember one person can make a difference.”
As we continue to run, coming out from the stands to take Noah’s place is a woman. Wearing the finest silk, as she comes sweeping by, we see that Esther is a beautiful woman. Gliding up next to us, she says,
“God has a place for you. I am Esther, and this is my story.”
Esther was out of place in a strange country with different customs, but the king chose her to be his queen. It seemed her life would have a fairytale ending until horror came to her people – the Jews. An evil man named Haman plotted to kill all the Jews, and soon the countrymen would exterminate God’s people. Esther didn’t think there was anything she could do, but God had something different in mind. God planned all along for Esther to become queen, but she didn’t know this. Not until Mordecai, her adopted father, spoke to her.
“13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.
14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Mordecai believed God placed Esther right where she needed to be. Like Mordecai, I believe God places each of us where He needs us, but it is up to us to decide if we will do what we can for God. Esther heard Mordecai and responded.
“15 Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer,
16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”
Esther found herself right where God wanted her so she could accomplish a miracle for His people. Esther broke a long-standing protocol and went before the king to speak her mind on behalf of God’s people! The beautiful thing is Esther was right there for God to use her. Esther’s brave move rescued the Jews from destruction.
Just think, Esther was only one woman and one voice, but she saved an entire nation. Esther didn’t say, “Someone else should be doing this, not me.”. Nor did she ignore the need because of the risk. Serving God sometimes calls us to make a sacrifice, or I could say, “take a risk.” Never underestimate where God puts you to live. Consider this poem written by Edward Everette Hale.
“I am only one.
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything.
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything.
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
Edward Everett Hale”
As Esther leaves us, she asks us this question,
“What should you be doing for God?”
Then she says,
“Just like I was able to make a difference, you alone can make a difference.”
But the question I ask each of you today is,
“Will you be that one to make a difference?”
While Esther disappears back into the stands, another man steps out and approaches the track. He is wearing white robes and, surprisingly, an Egyptian headdress. He says to us,
“Don’t give up on your dreams.”
Dreams, dreams, dreams, this must be Joseph. As we continue together, Joseph gives us four more lessons he learned from his own experience.
- Don’t give up on your dream even if you didn’t start well.
Joseph’s dream for his future came to him at just 17 years old. He eagerly shared his dreams with his family, and this surprisingly only got him into trouble. But unlike Joseph, we too often give up on our dreams, especially in the early stages when our dreams are most fragile. Dreams like seeing people we love saved.
- Don’t give up on your dream even if your family doesn’t support it.
When Joseph told his family about his dreams, his father disapproved.
“10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?”
Joseph’s brothers were even worse, becoming bitter and jealous. They hated Joseph and planned to get rid of him forever.
“19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh.
20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”
- Don’t give up on your dream even if your journey is full of surprises.
When things don’t go as planned, it is still not a reason to give up. Joseph’s life was full of surprises. He was sold into slavery by his brothers but then became the caretaker of his master’s household. Just as things were going well for Joseph, his master’s wife tried to tempt him into an ungodly relationship. Joseph resisted only to find she lied to his master and accused Joseph of trying to seduce her. Unfortunately, Joseph’s master believed his wife and threw Joseph into prison. Then surprisingly, Joseph found favor with the guards and became the caretaker of the prison. They even gave him keys! Finally, Joseph’s gift of knowing the meaning of dreams would help him find his way out of prison and next in command to the king. God had his hand upon his life all along. Because of these seemingly unfortunate events, Joseph would save his family from starvation.
- Don’t give up on your dream, even if it takes a long time to realize it.
Twenty-three years passed from the time Joseph had his dream to when God finally fulfilled it. There was a dear sister in our congregation that prayed for years for God to save her children. Today three of her four children are serving God. Please do not give up on your dream, no matter how impossible it seems.
As we finish our lap, Joseph heads for the stands, and coming down is none other than Moses. As we run together, Moses says,
“Live in the faith zone, not in the safe zone.”
“27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
Moses was the one who hung tough, who refused to give in or give up, who decided that no number of odds against him would cause him to surrender. Moses had staying power. Once he made up his mind, nothing would deter the man. He possessed the discipline of durability. But it wasn’t always like that for Moses. He had to learn to let go of his past. So, what is it that we learn from Moses?
“Let go of your past.”
When Moses was 40 years old, he killed an Egyptian. Then he fled the country, and for the next 40 years of his life, he worked as a shepherd. It was then God met Moses at the burning bush. Moses would need to overcome the insecurity of the future. When God called Moses, he did not feel qualified for the task at hand. Moses had his list of insecurities weighing upon him.
- Who am I?
“11 And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
- What shall I say?
“13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?”
- What if they don’t believe me?
“4 And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee.”
- I don’t speak that well.
“10 And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.”
- Someone else could do better.
“13 And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send.
Then Moses did what we all need to do. He leaned on God. And what happened when Moses stepped out on faith? He got what I call a backbone to endure for God.
Despite the contempt of Pharaoh, the mightiest monarch of that era, Moses determined that no amount of resistance from Egypt’s throne would dim his determination. He was then able to lead God’s people out of Egypt. He endured, despite the stubbornness of the Hebrews who grumbled, blamed, complained, and rebelled. Nothing they said or could do would make Moses retreat. He endured, despite the criticism of his sister Miriam and his brother Aaron.
Many people are too afraid to take a risk for God. So, they spend their entire lives in Egypt – the land of “Not Enough.” The place where people are unsure about their spiritual lives and satisfied with hanging just below the horizon. Others stay in the land of “Just Enough.” Moses was surviving in the desert and could have stayed after God’s call. This decision would’ve been just enough for Moses. But thank God, Moses took a risk and stepped out of the safe zone. He trusted God to help him with his insecurities, and Moses became a great leader. Thank God for the few that are willing to get out of their safe zones.
Thank God he took a risk and overcame his insecurities. God wants more for you than just enough. He wants you to enter the land of “More than enough.” It is by faith that we do this. Too many times, we say, “I can’t testify to that person. What will they think?”, or “I can’t give God praise. What will others think? What if I say the wrong thing. I might stammer. I am too nervous.” Step out on faith, and you will be surprised how God will bless.
As Moses leaves us and heads for the stands, out comes a royally dressed man. He is a king dressed in colorful robes with a jeweled sword on his hip and a crown on his head; he carries himself like a warrior. As this man comes up beside us, he says, “I am David.”
Now David is probably one of the people I would love to talk to most in the Old Testament. A sister in our congregation once told me, “I could be in love with David.” We could talk for weeks about David and what he did in his life. As David continues to run next to us, he says,
“You can overcome the limitations others put on you.”
You might think, what limitations could David have? He achieved great success and made it to the top. He was the king! Yet, if you study David’s life, you will find many did not see his potential.
- As a young man, his father didn’t think he had king potential.
When Samuel the prophet came to David’s home looking for the king, God sent Samuel to anoint, David’s father paraded seven sons before Samuel, and he didn’t even think of David.
“6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.
7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
- David’s brothers did not think he had warrior potential.
When David’s father sent him to his brothers on the battlefield, his brothers made fun of him, called him a child, and told him to go home.
1 Samuel 17:28
“28 And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.”
- King Saul did not think David had champion potential
When King Saul heard someone was willing to fight Goliath, he was probably expecting a large man with great strength. But in stepped a young shepherd boy, and this boy told Saul, “Let no man’s heart fall because of this giant. I will go fight him.”
“32 And David said to Saul, Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.
33 And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.”
- Goliath did not think David had opponent potential.
When David went out to meet Goliath, Goliath did not think David had opponent potential. The Bible tells us that Goliath disdained David. The evil giant laughed at David because he was young. The people that didn’t think David had potential soon found out that David had a strong connection with God. With his trust in God, David was far more powerful than anything this world could throw at him. David defeated Goliath because he did not limit the power of God.
1 Samuel 17:44-43
“43 And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.
44 And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.”
As David heads for the stands, I feel pumped up and ready to head out into life. How about you? In the impersonal world that we live in today, it is easy to underestimate the significance of one. Many times, as young people, we look around and say, “There are so many people that seem so much more capable, more gifted, more prosperous, and more important than me.” You may think, “who am I? I am just a young person. I don’t amount to much.” That’s how many people believe today, “I am nobody.” Aren’t you glad Noah didn’t say, “I don’t want to be used by God.”? What about Esther, Moses, and David? We could talk about Rebekah, Abraham, and Jesus. God is calling each of you by name, and he wants you to step up and be that soldier that will stand for Him. God has always used people willing to be used by Him. Before we end, I want to ask you a couple of questions.
- How many people did God choose to feed the five thousand in the New Testament?
He used one boy that had five loaves of bread and five fishes.
- How many prophets did God use to stand before the 400 hundred prophets of Baal in the Old Testament?
God used one prophet willing to stand up for Him.
The race you and I are running is way more important than any sporting event. Our race has an eternal impact. What we do in this life affects what we do in the next life. Are you doing your best for God? Maybe you haven’t started on the path with God. You might not even be in this race. If you are not running with God today, you don’t have these great men and women of faith cheering you on to your successful finish. I want to encourage you this morning; to come and join this race and enjoy the cheering of these great men and women of faith. Remember, if you are not running with God, you are in another race. The end of that way is destruction. Now is the time to begin with God. Today is the day of Salvation. Listen slowly to what God has to say, breathe deeply, run faithfully.