Seeing God / Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Sunday, January 26, 2020
Rev. Donald P. Beaumont

Matthew 4:12-25

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Fans of the Green Bay Packers are considered some of the most rabidly loyal and enthusiastic fans in any sport. In 2012, the Packers were supposed to play the New York Giants for the NFC Championship. A huge snowstorm came through Green Bay and covered the playing field, and game officials considered postponing the game. But Green Bay officials put out a call asking for help to clear the field. They offered to pay folks $10/hour to shovel snow off Lambeau Field. They needed around 400 people to do the job. 1,250 people showed up with shovels. Needless to say, they had no trouble clearing the field that day.

Most leaders of any organization would get down on their knees and thank God if they could get a few loyal, enthusiastic volunteers to work alongside them, much less 1,250 of them. That’s especially true of the church. As we have often reminded you before, the real church is not the building. The real church is the people. We depend on loyal, enthusiastic volunteers to accomplish everything that is done in Christ’s name.

After John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus set out to organize a few good team members, a few good disciples, who would catch His vision and commit themselves to spreading the good news of the kingdom of God. So, He headed over to the synagogue to find the most learned scholars in Capernaum . . . right? No, that’s not what our passage says. Instead, Jesus takes a walk around the Sea of Galilee and sees a couple of fishermen, brothers named Simon Peter and Andrew. And He calls out to these brothers and says, “Come, follow Me, and I will send you out to fish for people.” And our Bible passage reads, “At once, they left their nets and followed Him.”

And Jesus walked on a little farther and saw two more brothers, James and John, with their father, Zebedee. They were repairing their nets, preparing for a long day of fishing too. And when Jesus called to them, they immediately left their nets, their boat, and their father and followed Jesus too. Now that’s loyalty and enthusiasm when you immediately leave behind everything to follow Jesus’ call.

I hear people justify almost any action that they take by saying, ‘I have to think first about what is best for me and my family. which is often a discussion stopper, but, what if we’re called to think first about what God wants and how He might use us for His glory?

We kicked off this New Year 2020 with a new series titled Seeing God More Clearly. But there’s a challenge that comes with seeing God more clearly: once we see God and God’s calling more clearly, we have to make a decision, will we go back to our old lives, or will we give ourselves in complete obedience to God’s work? Let’s consider some things today’s passage teaches us about seeing God more clearly.

Here’s the first thing it teaches us: If you want to see God more clearly, you’ve got to get up and go where God calls you. Inaction, when God calls, equals idolatry. Inaction when God calls is proof that you value something else more, that you worship something else more, that you prioritize your own comfort or status or safety more than you value serving the God who created you for His glory.

All throughout the Bible, God uses the people who get up and go where He leads. Abraham, Moses, Esther, Rahab, Jonah, the disciples, Paul, all of them had to head out into unknown territory, confronting unknown challenges in order to do God’s work.

These first disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John, weren’t sitting around watching paint dry when Jesus found them. They were busy. They had jobs to do and families to feed and plans for their weekend. They weren’t looking for Jesus. He was looking for them. But they saw something in Him, in His message and character and vision that led them to say “Yes” immediately and get up and go.

Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John got up and followed Jesus because they saw God in Him, and they wanted to know how God could use them for His glory. That happens to people sometimes.

Napoleon Kaufman was a running back with the Oakland Raiders. He had just signed a two-year, $6 million dollar contract. He had success, respect, money. But he felt dissatisfied and empty. But then something special happened in his life.

He was at training camp, horsing around with his friends, cursing, acting like one of the guys, when a teammate came up to him and said, Hey, Napoleon, you don’t really look like the type of guy that would be out here acting like this. Man, don’t you know that God can use your life?

Can you imagine someone, out of the blue, saying that to an NFL running back? “Don’t you know that God can use your life?” Stop and think about that for a moment. Imagine Jesus walking into your place of business tomorrow, into your kitchen, wherever it is you start your day, and saying, [Fred, Susan], what are you doing? Don’t you know that God can use your life? What excuses would come to your mind? What objections? What fears? These are all idols, things that we value more than we value knowing and serving God. What could God do with our lives if we followed Him unconditionally in spite of our fears?

When Napoleon Kaufman, this NFL running back, got back to his hotel room, he got down on his knees and prayed to God for forgiveness, and asked God to change his life. He began studying his Bible and trying to see God and God’s will for him more clearly. And he realized that God was calling him to get up and go, to leave his successful football career to become a pastor. As Napoleon says, I walked away from the game to serve God and to serve people, without any regrets.

That’s remarkable. If you want to see God more clearly, you’ve got to get up and go where God calls you.

If you want to see God more clearly, you’ve got to focus more on the opportunity you have to serve God now, than on the life you left behind.  It’s not easy changing the direction of your life. It’s not easy leaving certain opportunities or comforts or relationships behind in order to do God’s work and live in God’s will, but sometimes we’re called to do it.

And don’t expect that the people around you will cheer you on. A lot of times, they’ll question you, even reject you. Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers. Think about that for a minute. Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.

The world’s vision isn’t God’s vision. The values that are important to this world are not the values of the kingdom of God. If your life makes sense to unbelievers, then you may need to question if your life is aligned with God’s will and God’s values.

Every blessing is an opportunity to serve and glorify God, but so, is every heartache. Freedom provides an opportunity to serve and glorify God, but so does imprisonment. Good health and wealth provides opportunities to serve God, but so does weakness and sickness and beatings and starvation and poverty. Wins were an opportunity to serve and glorify God, and so are losses.

If you want to see God more clearly, you’ll find Him in serving others. Look at what Jesus was offering His new disciples. He didn’t say, Come, follow Me, and I will make you more successful, or happier, or wealthier. He didn’t say, “Come, follow Me, and we will challenge the power of Rome, or restore the nation of Israel. He didn’t even say, Come, follow Me, and you’ll do miracles and receive supernatural power and attract huge crowds. No. Jesus said simply, Come, follow Me, and I will send you out to fish for people. From the very beginning, Jesus’ call was to serve others and draw them into the kingdom of God.

Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people. That’s what Jesus promised His new disciples, and they left everything and followed Him. Come, follow Me, and I will send you out to fish for people. That’s what Jesus promises us as well. What’s standing between you and saying “Yes!” to God? What’s standing between where you are right now and where God wants you to be? Is there something you could be doing for God in this church or in this community? It doesn’t have to be spectacular. God uses small gifts just as surely as He does large ones. The best way to see God clearly in 2020 is to ask Him to give you a new vision of a way you can serve.

Bethel Lutheran Church

32410 Willowick Drive
Willowick, OH 44095

P: (440) 943-5000

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