Coming To The End Of Ourselves
Pastor Adam Mallett, Jr.
Adapted from sermon by
Pastor Gary DarDar, Jr.
If you are alive, you have a lot to do. Even those of you who are retired have a long to-do list! God has created us with more to accomplish than we will ever be able to accomplish in this lifetime! When we stop and think about it, life is a tall order. It can be overwhelming. That fact is true no matter who you are, and even lost people can identify with what is actually a spiritual truth. There are many who would say that God never gives us more than we can handle, but that just isn’t true! In fact, when I was born, I was handed a to-do list that was basically impossible! So were you. The title of this last sermon in our Neighborhood Watch series might be better worded as “Facing The Hard Truth That We Are Already At The End Of Ourselves.” Maybe that was too long. Either way, as a child of God, you must quickly face the hard truth that there is really not much that you can accomplish in your own abilities that is worth much in the Kingdom of God. When you look at the lost world, you can easily spot people that are making names for themselves and finding some distorted version of success, yet we know that what they are building and gathering and acquiring is as temporary as the morning dew! To make an eternal impact with our lives requires a whole lot more than what our best efforts can achieve!
With that seemingly unfortunate truth in mind, what can we do with our lives? What is the point, you might ask. God is trying to lead us to a place of understanding. If I am unable to accomplish what He has set before me to do, then who can I look to for help? My pastor? The Pope? Who on earth can show me ho to overcome the obstacle that is my own shortcoming? No one! The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of our Creator and Sustainer, is the only One who can help! As God calls us deeper in our relationship with Him, we will find that our reliance on Him grows more and more! That is what it means to come to the end of ourselves. Not that we were in any way doing fine on our own! We are not urging you to give up the “power” that you have. We are urging you to realize that you are powerless and broken, and you need to enabling of the Holy Spirit! If you come to River Of Life, you have heard me ask, in prayer, that the Holy Spirit would be my enabler. As the worship leader of our church, I can’t make you worship. I can’t make you enter the presence of God. I can barely play enjoyable music! And don’t even mention the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to let me sing! However, if I humble myself and allow the Holy Spirit to work through me, I can accomplish the job of leading the congregation in worship. I am made able to create an environment in which people can meet with God in worship and praise. In coming to the end of my abilities and accomplishments, God is made able to accomplish His will in and through my life!
We must remember that Jesus told His disciples “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26 ESV) This is the key to being made able to build the Kingdom from this precarious place at the end of our own rope, as imperfect humans. I would like to share a few of my thoughts concerning this topic, but I encourage you to go back and listen to the sermon, and allow the Helper to give you an understanding of all that the Father has to say to you through this message.
The question that God placed on my heart as I listened to this message was this: “Have I come to the end of myself, or am I trying to maintain a cushion of comfort from which I can operate as I attempt to accomplish the will of God?” In other words, am I relying on God to build the Kingdom, or am I trying to keep some of my ability or energy on reserve for when my faith dwindles? Have I laid down myself in order to live the life of Christ, or am I trying to have both? Have I come to a place of trust in God such that I have let go of the familiarity of my agenda and mindset? Or have I kept my agenda and mindset on reserve for when God’s gets uncomfortable? So long as I am stood on my own cushion of comfort and familiarity, I will never find firm footing on the foundation of Christ!
I think that we often try to take up our cross with one hand, while keeping the other hand firmly latched onto our rope. Rather than face the truth that we are at the end of our rope, we hang on to that rope! Eventually, the Kingdom agenda will stretch us, and we will be forced to let go of one or the other! Unfortunately, many people let go of their cross, preferring the familiarity of their own, ever-shortening, rope. The problem with this torn way of living is that it puts us squarely in the place described in Revelation 3:16-17. “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich. I have prospered and need nothing,’ not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” When we try to hang on to ourselves and the cross, we find ourselves with neither. We find ourselves in the depths of struggle and trials, and we wonder where things went wrong.
If we will just let go, we will find that the solid Rock is not so very far from under our feet. He is right there waiting for us to come to the end of ourselves, take up our cross, and find the abundant life that He desires for us to live! Sure, I can accomplish some things without humbling myself to be helped, but those things will inevitably fall short of the holy standard of Holy God. And they will always leave me more broken and decidedly empty. Let the Helper help you! And let go of your brokenness and imperfection, no matter how familiar or comfortable it might seem!
Another line of thought that I had regarding this topic deals with the disciples’ behavior in this passage of scripture. When faced with the tall order of feeding all those people, the disciple’s were acutely aware of their shortcoming! Rather than attempting to accomplish what was set before them, blind to the fact that they couldn’t, as we often do, they just failed to act. They were aware that they couldn’t feed all those people with just that little boy’s lunch! And so they simply said, “I can’t.” They would, but they couldn’t see how it was possible. In scouts, we were always told that the only way the word can’t would be allowed was if we were talking about archery. In which case the word would be cant. Not a contraction, but an actual archery term for tilting your bow to the side. And we often have that same attitude. “I would, God, but I can’t. I have a speech impediment.” “I would, but I don’t know how.” “I would, but that is very uncomfortable for me.” “I would, but my personality isn’t ideal for that situation.” In order to clarify what I am trying to say, I’d like to share some of my story with you.
Coming out of high school, I wanted to be a veterinarian. It was the logical thing to do! I had been raised around livestock and I really had a strong desire to work with livestock for a living. Sometimes I still do! I felt as though I couldn’t do anything else. Sure, I wanted to be a vet, bet God had been working in my heart in ways that I didn’t understand. When first felt as though he was calling me to something else, I didn’t see how it was possible! Ho could I be a pastor? I am an introvert, I am very unsociable, and often struggle with depression. On top of all that, how could a person throw away the opportunities that I had? But when I finally submitted to God’s call on my life to be a pastor, I let my family know that I was quitting LSU to pursue the life that I believed God had created me for. For the most part, that announcement wasn’t met with a whole lot of congratulations. I looked foolish! I felt foolish. I felt as though I was stepping out into nothing. Yet, I had some small seed of confidence in my heart, knowing that I had heard from God. What was especially foolish was that, along with the experience I had regarding my college major and career goals, I had enough scholarships to pay for my tuition, dorms, meal plan, books, parking, and extra to spend how I wanted. And those scholarships were good for the full four years of my undergraduate schooling. I was set! Some of my family members urged me to complete my college education, and then pursue God’s call on my life to be a pastor. Their reasoning was more than logical! “That way, if being a pastor doesn’t work out, you have something to fall back on.” Sounds good! Except that God doesn’t call us to a life that may not work out. God didn’t call us into existence with any uncertainty. There is nothing that is uncertain for God!
If Jesus hands you a basket of fish to hand out to thousands of people, just start handing it out! If Jesus calls you to meet Him out on the water, don’t look down at the water! If Jesus tells you to cast your net on the other side, don’t ask for His fishing credentials! I decided to cast my net on the other side, and that meant removing my net from the side I thought it should be on. I lost TOPS and all my scholarships. I have no college education. I have had many struggles since making that decision to abandon self for Christ. But somehow, even the struggles seem to fit right on my life. Because this is what I was designed for! I am walking where I have been called out to walk, and it is a path that God preordained for me to walk. Most importantly, it is a path that allows no room for self. I sometimes wonder if that plan B would have worked. Could I have attended eight years of school, become a veterinarian, then become a pastor? I could have been bivocational, just as I am now. I could have worked for myself, creating my own schedule, and ensured that I was always off for church functions. Over the years, I have often wondered these things. However, I am confident that if I had put my education, my familiarity and security, before God’s calling for my life, I would never have been able to let go of self in order to grab hold of my cross! It was easy, relatively, to let go of the prospect of what could be, but it would have been so hard to let go of the results of eight years of education.
Your journey to the end of yourself will probably look a lot different than mine. Mine is still unfolding! And it will continue until I die. Unfortunately, even though I am aware of my need to come to the end of myself, I still stumble and fall. I still try to accomplish things on my own. And I still fail. I haven’t attained these things in which I am encouraging you, but I press on, knowing that the Holy Spirit is helping me, guiding me and enabling me, to be filled fuller and fuller, made more in the image of Christ every day.