This is the second and last of the series Getting The Word In Our Feet. We need, more than anything else in these times of chaos and fear is Direction. Not just any direction; but a New And Different Direction. Choosing a direction is not enough. Choices without action are worthless.
Last week we learned that Any Choice That Doesn’t Come With Action Is Just Wishing And Useless. That’s what the Old Testament illustration of the Hebrews at the edge of the Promised Land teaches us. All those over 20, except Caleb and Joshua, never got to live within God’s promise. Their direction was cemeteries scattered throughout the wilderness. Now we look at a New Testament story about a single cemetery that illustrates the need for Both Direction And Action. Turn to John 20:1-9 (N.L.T.)
Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.
Decades ago, before radar and computer flying, an airplane was somewhere over the Rockies in a fog that went from the ground to way above the clouds. The pilot came over P.A. and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have some good new and some bad news. First, the bad news: we’re lost! But the good news is, we’re 2 hours ahead of schedule.” This describes the culture we live it; it describes people all around us—2 hours ahead of schedule but lost.
When times seem to be the darkest, people struggle to find the right direction and the subsequent actions that will bring them out of the darkness. And here is the One Thing you need to remember today and it’s a principle that will always work: Actions, Not Intentions, Produce The Right Outcomes. The Good News Of God’s Kingdom isn’t about changing our intentions—it is about changing our actions. It’s not all that complicated. Intentions cannot produce faith. Cannot manufacture hope nor deliver us from our fear and despair.
I can intend to do something all day long and will accomplish nothing. If you don’t believe this, just trust me on this because I’ve done it enough to be an expert. Just suppose Debbie asks me to do something before the day is done, I’ll say, “OK, dear, I’ll do it.” Well, I intend to get that done. But come the evening, if I haven’t done that, she’s going to get upset at me.
But why? I mean I intended to do what she asked. I intended to do it better than she thought I could do it. Why is she so upset? I intended to do it. It’s just unbelievable that she would get upset that I didn’t do that—even when I intended to do it. Are you starting to get the picture here?
Let’s bring this down to this principle and the passage behind it. Easter Morning. I don’t know what went through your minds then I read the text. Maybe you thought that Easter’s not here yet. Lent doesn’t even start until Wednesday. I still have a couple of days of indulgence left.
When I read this, I focused on what was happening to the people. Mary Magdalene RAN to tell the disciples. The disciples RAN to the tomb. These folks were RUNNING! There was motion and movement by these people. The Resurrection got the disciples involved with direction, motion and movement. They no longer stood still! Christians are people who Run! The question for us here and every church is this: How Can We Get The Word In Our Feet So That We Can Get Motion And Movement On Our Part Into God’s Promises?
Well you have to understand that there are Sitters and there are Runners. One of the ways you can sort out people in church is to say they come in 2 types: Sitters and Runners. OK, let’s look at each.
1. First, Let’s Look At The Sitters.
The best way to describe sitters is to image them in a rocking chair, rocking and watching the world go by. Sitters Are Those Who Are Content With Motion Without Movement And Momentum. They Have Been Deceived Into Thinking Motion Is Movement When It’s Clearly Not Producing Momentum.
Well, here, let me show you with this rocking chair. There’s motion, but nothing is really changing. If you’re not prone to motion sickness, rocking really is relaxing—if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s activity and motion, but look—this rocking chair is still here. Am I right? I’m moving; I’m just not going anywhere. If I turn the rocking chair around, nothing’s really changed—I’m just looking in a different direction. OK, I’ve changed direction, but I still in the same place. The only thing that has changed is my view. I’m not in a different place—I’m in the same place, just a different view. And nothing has really changed.
Sitters Are Those Who Are Deceived Into Believing That Because They Are Rocking—There’s Motion—That This Motion Is Enough. While rocking in a chair may be relaxing and enjoyable it is not accomplishing anything—other than make us feel better about ourselves.
2. Now, Let’s Look At Runners.
Runners are different! They don’t stay in the same place. And their view is always changing. Runners have direction and motion—just like the sitters—but runners add the all important element of forward movement. It Is Movement Not Motion That Always Creates Momentum. Movement and momentum described what was happening in that cemetery just outside of Jerusalem. Transformation began when they started running. Running Produced Movement And That Movement Starting Producing Momentum.
Churches Are Dying Today. It’s Not Because Of A Lack Of Direction. Everyone is pointed in some direction. It’s Not Because Of A Lack Of Motion. Ever heard the phrase “Going through the motions”? It’s Because They Have Lost Movement And Without Movement There Is No Momentum. Remember the rocking chair. There is always motion—but no real movement or momentum.
There was a runner by the name of Saul of Tarsus, running as hard as anyone against Jesus. But God grabbed him on the Damascus Road, turned him around, and he kept right on running, this time as Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles! Give me a church full of runners every time; even if like Saul, they are running in the wrong direction.
Because when you get runners going in the right direction, things happen! Communities change for the better. Families become stronger. People quit complaining and whining so much. People meet and follow the real Jesus. And The Very Foundations Of Hell Tremble And Shake In Fear! God Wants Runners!
We need to get the Word in our feet and start running! How? Well, the Nike commercial says it best: Just Do It! Don’t talk about it, plunge in with both feet. The problem with a lot of congregations is that they want a pastor to be successful for them—to do the praying, serving, witnessing and get more members. But this is not what God has called the pastor to do.
The pastor is one called out of the life of the church, trained and approved to help you, the lay people do your ministry. The pastor is not to be a busy body, his job is to get the body busy! Now, I can back this up with scripture, Eph. 4:11-12—“These were his gifts: some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers for the building up of the body of Christ!”
Who is the body of Christ? Those outside waiting to be saved? NO! You are! How do we become Runners rather than Sitters? Allow me to give you a few principles:
- Begin By Being Still. We can’t be running in just any and every direction. We need focus. Being still before God gives us the direction to begin running. Think about Elijah in that cave at Mt. Horeb. He was running in the wrong direction. But when he stood still before God, and listened, he found that new direction—and that new direction created Movement And Momentum.
- Don’t Question Or Think About The Direction, Just Run. Try to do a cost or risk analysis on the direction—and Satan will convince you it won’t work. Think about that day Jesus told the disciples to find something to feed that crowd. They found a boy’s small sack lunch. They should have been ready to run—but they did the cost/risk analysis and concluded it wasn’t enough. If Jesus sends you to do something, then He knows what’s out there and He knows it will be more than enough.
- Build Upon Even Small Successes. Your running doesn’t have to produce things worthy of a page in Guide Posts. Think about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. After discussing buckets and wells, Jesus led her to thinking about the Messiah. In the world’s economy it was a small success. When He had her thinking about the Messiah He was able to get her thinking about herself. And when He got her thinking about herself and The Messiah, she went and told her whole village about Jesus.
- Sustain Momentum. Keep on praying. Keep on studying The Word. Keep up the pace. Keep on living this Life In Grace. Don’t ever settle in one place of success. Think about those Disciples after Pentecost. About 3,000 people were saved. Hey, that’s a lot. Time to rest, right? Wrong! They kept it up—sharing life together in meals, Holy Communion, praying and growing in maturity.
And since you can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are, here’s your Next Step:
Decide Right Now If You Are Going To Be A Sitter Or A Runner!
Years ago, someone gave me this poem, called “Sitting By The Fire” and it’s on the back of your sermon notes page:
Sitting By The Fire
He wasn’t much for moving about, it wasn’t his desire,
No matter how hard the others work, HE WAS SITTING BY THE FIRE!
This went on from day to day, he never seemed to tire,
when others were working so hard in the church, HE WAS SITTING BY THE FIRE!
He died one day as all must do, and some say he went up higher,
but if he’s doing what he’s always done, HE IS SITTING BY THE FIRE
Are you a Sitter? Or will you become a Runner?