Does The World Really Need Someone Like You?
Does the world really need someone like you? Too many people today are answering that question with a resounding “No”.
I remember being asked to address the students at Arkansas College. As I prepared for that occasion, I inquired of the President of the college as to the spiritual temperature of the student body. He said: “Most of our students believe in Jesus Christ; the difficulty is that they don’t believe in themselves.” Well, that’s true of so many people today.
Lord Acton’s dictum is correct: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” But I will give you a dictum that is even more correct: “Weakness corrupts more people than strength.” I see it every week in my ministry, where because of a lack of confidence in one’s relationship with God through Jesus Christ, someone surrenders, someone fails, someone gives up in the on-going struggle to live the Christian life. I encounter this again and again—people who, if asked, “Does the world really need someone like you?”quickly answer, “No, the world doesn’t need the likes of me.”
Well, for anyone who has had such feelings in the past and for anyone who may have such feelings in the future, help is to be found in the sixth chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews. We do not know who wrote the Letter. Great students of the Bible from the earliest days on, including Martin Luther and John Calvin, say that it was not written by Paul. There is some evidence to favor Paul as the author, but it is not conclusive. So some have contended that its author was Barnabas, others Apollos, still others Priscilla and Aquila. But while we may not know exactly who wrote it, we do know many things about the person who wrote it. We know, for example, that at one point, the author of Hebrews had the experience of being in the spiritual doldrums, the experience of reaching out for faith and finding no power there, the experience of feeling that the world could do very well without him. But it was then that the author of Hebrews remembered three things and he shares them with us.
He says, first of all, in verse 9: “It’s worth remembering that when we feel most forsaken, God is perhaps never closer.”
He writes: “I am confident that the fruits of faithfulness are going to be produced in your life.” And how does he have this confidence? He knows that people do not cry out for a greater power of the Spirit in their lives unless there is some spiritual life down inside of them somewhere motivating that cry. In other words, our very concern about our spiritual life is in itself clear testimony to the fact that the Spirit of God is at work within us.
Think of it in terms of David. Here was a man who committed adultery with a woman and then murdered that woman’s husband. A double sin. He was then overwhelmed with a sense of guilt, a sense of being utterly without God. He proceeded to write out a prayer—we know it as Psalm 51. In that Psalm, David pleaded with God not to abandon him. He cried out: “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” But read on in that Psalm and you will find one of the most Spirit-filled passages in all of Scripture. What I am saying is this: at the very moment when David felt most guilty and most worthless and in deepest need of forgiveness—at that moment the Spirit of God was closest to him, convicting him of his sin and extending to him the grace of forgiveness.
Or think of it in terms of Calvary. There came a moment on the cross when the weight of a whole world’s sin settled on Jesus’ shoulders. There was no beauty in that moment, only ugliness. There was no hope in that moment, only death. And from Christ’s heart and lips there burst forth the cry of desolation: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” There’s a rather famous painting which portrays Christ on the cross at the moment He uttered those words. In the background the artist placed a great mass of black, swirling, forbidding, foreboding clouds. But when you look closely at the painting, you see woven into those clouds the very arms of God coming down to encircle His Son. The message is clear. At the very moment when Jesus felt utterly forsaken, God was never closer. And that is why, just minutes later, Jesus could say: “Father, into Thy hand I commit my spirit.”
Someone asked Scotland’s John MacNeill why he never preached from John 3:16. He said: “Because I have that in every sermon.” Well, here it is for this sermon. God so loved the world, God so loved you that He gave His only Son for you. You are special to God, so special that at the very moment in life when you feel most forsaken, at that moment God is reaching out to you to encircle you in His love.
Then in verse 10, the writer says: “It’s worth remembering that God always focuses on our finest hours.”
He writes: “Ford, God is not unfair. How can He forget your hard work for him, or forget the way you show your love for Him?” Henry Ford once defined the term “best friend” this way: “Your best friend is the one who draws the best out of you.” I like that. And by that definition, Jesus is the best friend anyone could ever have, because Jesus draws only the best out of us.
What did Jesus see when He looked at Zacchaeus. Not a selfish, sniveling, conniving old tax collector, but rather a man who by the depth of his sacrifice could win a whole town. What did Jesus see when He looked at Simon Peter? Not a bumbling, loud-mouthed, shifting-sands fisherman, but rather one on whose rock of commitment a whole church could be built. What did Jesus see when He looked at Mary Magdalene? Not a cheap scarlet woman of the streets, but rather one whose acts of devotion would inspire 10,000 times 10,000 people down all the long corridors of time. Jesus always sees the best in an individual. He focuses on our finest hours.
I can understand that. When I look at my son, John David, do I look at him in terms of the things that he does wrong? Only if I am a poor excuse for a father. No, I look at him in terms of all the possibilities, in terms of all the things that he does so right, in terms of all the hopes and dreams I have for him, in terms of that little spark of greatness that I see in him. That’s the way God looks at us. He looks at all those moments when we have lived up to the unique possibilities He has put within us, all of those times when we have made a difference, all of those times when we have done the things that are worthy and beautiful and full of good report. God focuses on our finest hours and measures us in terms of those.
There’s a lovely old Italian legend about an acrobat in the circus who became a monk. He was a failure at it. His life lacked the iron discipline required in the monastery. He wasn’t very smart—he couldn’t even learn the Lord’s Prayer. He was constantly botching up his various responsibilities and that angered his fellow monks. He was a complete catastrophe in every sense of the word. He felt that his life had no worth whatever. One night, in great despair, feeling so far short of having pleased God, he went to the chapel after everyone else was sleeping. There, beneath the great wooden crucifix he did the only thing in life he felt he could do. He did his acrobatics. He blazed through his entire repertoire of stunts like a great whirling dervish. And he did them as best he could. At last he fell to the floor in utter exhaustion. The stone walls stood silent. The stained glass did not blink its colored eyes. The candles burned without a whisper. But then, it is said, Christ stepped down from the cross, lifted the hand of the exhausted acrobat, mopped the perspiration from his brow, and said to him, “Well done. Well done.”
So there are times when you feel that your life is nothing more than a stunt, and not a very good one at that? So there are times when you feel that you have nothing of offer to God, to the world, or to those about you? Remember God made you special. You are unique. You are an original work: of art. You are not a Xerox copy of someone else. You have not been mass-produced. The Almighty Himself has written His signature across your life. He knows the gifts you possess and the good you have done. And He focuses on your finest in you, whatever it is, and He says to you, “Well done.”
Then the writer of Hebrews says one thing more, “It’s worth remembering that there are splendid rewards set before us.”
He writes, “Keep right on loving others as long as life lasts, so that you will get your full reward.” And what is that reward?
There’s the reward of seeing the fruit of our service in the lives of those we are serving. You know, in the days of the early church, one preached whenever one felt inspired. In other words, you were not expected to preach every week. You preached only when the inspiration of God wouldn’t let you do otherwise. No longer is that true. Now the preacher is to be automatically inspired every Sunday morning. Makes no difference What the week before has been like in the church, or in the preacher’s personal life, come 11:00 A.M. on Sunday, he is supposed to be inspired and inspiring. That’s tough. And I have to tell you that I hate the effort involved in preparing sermons. It’s time-consuming, mentally taxing, physically wearing, and emotionally draining. I love to preach, but I hate the preparation behind it. And in those times when I feel that it is not worth it, or that I don’t have anything to offer, or that I am just plain tired, there is only one thing that keeps me at it. It is the fact that every once in a while, by the grace of God, someone comes to me or writes to me and says, “The Holy Spirit used your words to claim my soul.” My friends, that’s a glorious reward, and you can experience the same reward when you are willing to share all that you know of Jesus Christ with those around you.
But in addition to the earthly reward there is also a heavenly reward. The Kingdom of Heaven is going to be ours, and the greatest blessing of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is to be with Jesus, is going to be ours as well. That’s the one note the New Testament sounds again and again like a great clarion call. Matthew 5:3—”Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” I Corinthians 13:12—”Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then, face to face.” I John 3:2—”We will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Revelation 22:4—”Then the servants of God shall see His face, and His name shall be written on their foreheads.” Yes, to be with Christ, to see Him as He is, to be like Him, to know the glory—knowing that one day that will be gone, is enough to fill your life with a sense of worth and value.
In the First World War, an officer was leading a company of British soldiers to the front. The cold rain was falling. The road was muddy, the countryside was war-scarred and desolate, and the men knew what was ahead—mud and blood and fear and possibly dying. Their shoulders sagged. They slogged along in depressed silence. As they marched, the officers gazed through the doorway of a bombed-out church beside the road and saw the figure of Christ on the cross above the high altar. It came to him like a jolt of courage, a voice of assurance. Turning back toward the company, he barked out the command, “Eyes right! March!” They obeyed the command and those depressed, discouraged soldiers soon saw what their commander had seen. And in that suffering, but triumphant event, they found their strength to march on.
Dear friends, when you encounter hard times in the faith, when you begin to feel that the world doesn’t need someone like you, remember that you are an original work of art signed by God; that when you feel most forsaken, God is very near; that God always looks not on your worst, but on your finest hours; and that by the power of Jesus Christ all of your past is paid for and all of the future is stretched out before you. Now I ask you: does the world really need someone like you? Yes, it does. Why? You want the answer straight from the Bible. Here it is—Luke 17:40. Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is where? “The Kingdom of God is in you.”