We all need a hand. We all need to give a hand. The world needs us hand-in-hand.
I’m looking forward to sharing with you this morning from God’s Word.
You know, in Hebrews 11, the author gives many examples of faithful people from the Old Testament and suggests in Chapter 12 that,
“since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Romans 12:1 NIV
Well, this morning, for those of us here, we are also surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Or, at least some great witnesses in the cloud.
Really, though, I hope to make our time together special, recognizing that we are still one church, filled with One Spirit, under one baptism in Jesus Christ. Amen?
Let’s play a quick game together. You can play along at home, too. Maybe, type your answer into the comments on Facebook or YouTube and see who is the fastest.
Ready? Name that movie. We’ll start easier and get harder…
[play the game]
Alright, give yourselves a hand. Well done.
Can you guess the theme of these movie scenes? It’s that famous hand grab. There’s the one where it starts at the wrist and slides down. There’s the one where the person makes themselves fall because they think they deserve it. Then, my favorite, is when they both fall, but a third character you forgot about dives down and saves them both.
Has anyone ever given you a hand? Perhaps it was when you got too deep into a car’s engine, or you were buried in housework, or even considering ending your life. For many of us, we’ve also experienced the opposite. We’ve stepped into the gap for someone, lending some money, opening our home, or sharing our faith.
It’s amazing how powerful offering a hand to someone is, how transformative and memorable that exchange becomes. Yet, we often keep our hands in our pockets, don’t we?
In our message today, I’d like to explore this concept and challenge each of us lend and receive a hand. And while it is good and right to lend a hand of service to one another, I particularly want to challenge you to lend a hand in the form of a spiritually-focused relationship.
The Seminary I attend is Portland, Oregon is known as one of the premier institutions in which to become certified as a “Spiritual Director” I am not going to school for this, nor had I heard the term more than a couple of times. Interestingly enough, I am required to obtain a spiritual director, which Portland Seminary will pay for, three times a year. At first I though, “This is a waste of time. I know how to spend time with Jesus. I know how to read the Bible. I know about the Spiritual Disciplines.” However, I was not prepared for how life changing this encounter would be.
You see, a spiritual director has a special task. It is not to engage in emotional therapy or prescribe medicine. The assignment of the spiritual director is to help you engage with God. One ear is open to you and the other to the Spirit. Where I would be quick to talk about books, methods, people, and my past. The spiritual director encourages me to talk to God, Himself. To open the Scriptures and allow the Spirit to enlighten my heart with emblazoned truth, without my head putting out the fire.
This is the kind of hand-in-hand relationships we need. And, I’d like to illustrate this for you from Scripture. Please turn with me to 2 Samuel chapter 12. Again, that’s 2 Samuel, chapter 12. We’ll begin in verse one. As you are turning there. Realize that David has engaged in his famous sin. He slept with a married woman and had her faithful husband sent to the frontlines of battle to be killed.
David was supposed to be out at battle. But, instead he was giving into temptation. He was becoming self-focused and self-indulgent. He was harming other people with no accountability. You know what David needed? The same thing each of us needs—A Hand.
Truth and Application
- We All Need A Hand
The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah.
And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ …
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” 2 Samuel 12:1-10, 13 NIV
See how Nathan takes his hands out of his pockets and reaches back toward David to pull him forward. And boy does he ever! Look at this eye-to-eye reprimand. First, Nathan tricks David by giving a parallel illustration. He cuts David right to the heart. Second, Nathan speaks directly with David, saying “you are the man!” Third, Nathan speaks the word of God to David, explaining the consequences of his sin. Fourth, Nathan calls David out on the specifics of where he needs to grow. And finally, David feels the full weight of it all and repents.
This final point is important because it’s the end goal in a hand-up relationship: a growing relationship with God.
Look at this song David wrote afterward:
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
Psalm 51:1-2 NIV
Application Question: Do you have someone giving you a hand up? Will I seek out that person this week?
Here’s my suggestion, ask someone if they’re willing to get together with you and simply ask “What is your next step with God?”
Can you imagine the power in that question? Doesn’t that affect everything from dealing with your past, dealing with your kids, how you go about your work, engage in forgiveness, and handle anxiety? How much time do we waste chasing down lesser things?
When we ought to be in battle, but are instead growing inward and self-indulgent, if only, if only we had a Nathan in our lives. To have someone reach back and we have the courage to grasp them by the wrist and be led forward.
- We all need to give a hand
Please turn to Matthew 8, where we will read verses 1-3. Matthew 8. Some background as you’re turning there, Jesus has just given the Sermon on the Mount. He had to have been there for hours and was tired. Jesus was ministering to crowds, yet, what you’ll find is that even in the midst of His fatigue, not that Jesus never took time to rest, but in this instance He knew He could fight through it, and He doesn’t neglect meeting one on one, just because He is a great teacher. Let’s read.
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Matthew 8:1-3 NIV
If you don’t know, leprosy is the general term given to skin diseases in the Old and New Testaments. They are described as annoying, as uncomfortable, at times deadly, and perhaps even worse than that, reason for others to cut you off.
For one, people didn’t want to be exposed and contract the sickness. But, secondarily, those with a skin disease were unclean under Leviticus 13 law, which prohibited temple worship. This man was hoping against hope that Jesus was different.
I guarantee you the last thing he expected was what Jesus did for him. Jesus reached out His hand. Can you believe it? He touched the man. In an instant his skin disease began to fade, but more importantly, the warmth of Jesus’ contact and dignifying proximity brought healing to this man’s identity.
Plain and simple, Jesus reached out. Will you?
Application Question: Will you respond to someone’s request to meet up? Will you actively seek an opportunity to invest in another person?
I’m not asking you to teach Greek and Hebrew. I’m asking you to meet, to listen, and ask one question “What is your next step with God?” or “What is God speaking to you about this?”
Jesus modeled reaching back and pulling forward. Paul did, too, writing,
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV
And encouraging other to do the same, like Timothy,
…stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer… 1 Timothy 1:3 NIV
and many others, like asking Titus to teach older women to mentor younger ones:
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, Titus 2:3-4 NIV
What am I saying? From the beginning, we are meant to reach back and pull forward. If we will, something amazing will happen. Which leads to our third point.
- The world Will Notice
Don’t worry about flipping here. It’s a short verse and you can read it on the screen. Just consider it. Really, drink it in.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV
If I were to highlight the important words, the whole thing would be yellow.
A new command. It’s something the world hasn’t seen.
A new command. It’s not optional.
I give you. It’s Jesus. He is imparting it like a gift. For Jesus’ commands bring freedom and life.
Love one another. Not just love in general, but love each other.
As I have loved you. So, not just any love. But love that Jesus has shown. A love that reaches back. A love that is loyal. A love that is self-sacrificial.
So love one another. Yes, we apply Jesus-level love to one another in the church.
By this everyone will know. Who? Everyone. The world. All who see you.
What will they know? That you are followers of Jesus. If you love like Jesus, people will know you’re a Jesus person.
If. So good. If, you love one another. The challenge is clear.
Application Question: Will you love another person in the church enough to reach back? Will you allow yourself to be loved by someone and receive a hand forward?
If. If. If. Then the world will know.
Band come on up at this time.
Church, we are part of the Wesleyan Church. And, I’m a bit of a John Wesley fanboy. I just call him “J Dub” at this point. But, one of the things I admire about the man God used to start our tradition’s movement in the eighteenth century is that he met with some bros regularly and asked each other these kinds of questions we’re talking about.
They called it the Holy Club when they were in college and met three or four nights a week. They developed twenty-two questions to ask each other about everything from “Did I give the Bible time to speak to me today?” to “Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?”
The club got a lot of flack from other students, but I don’t think many of them went on in the history books the way this crew did. John Wesley we know, Charles Wesley wrote 6,500 hymns including “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Oh for a thousand tongues to sing”, and George Whitefield was the primary instrument in fanning the Second Great Awakening where thousands upon thousands of people experienced new birth in Christ.
But, where did it start? Hand-in-hand.
As we sing this final song, we’ll also take up our morning giving and connection cards. May you also consider making this song your prayer. A call for God to build His kingdom here, understanding that this looks like meeting together and asking the important questions. May these meetings and His spirit set our hearts on fire. Please stand and respond to God’s Word through song.
Rom. 15:5-6 – May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you for worshiping.
Go with God.