WHAT IF THAT HAD BEEN ME?
Have you ever heard the expression, "Don't rock the boat!" I
am sure most of us have. If one passenger in a small boat unnecessarily causes
the boat to "take on water," the whole boat sinks. It is not just the person who
did the rocking who finds himself or herself in the water--it is every passenger
in the boat. Instantly everyone moves from a situation of safety to a situation
of danger. So, keep the situation stable and smooth--"don't rock the boat."
Years ago two or three of us needed to ask a town leader for permission to
preach in the town. The person we needed to talk to lived on an island in the
middle of a lake. The only way to get to his home was to go to the island in the
middle of the lake by a dugout canoe. Dugout canoe is a fancy way to say a
hollowed out log with no seats. The passengers had to be balanced on each side
of the log to keep it from sinking or rolling over. When all the passengers were
aboard, the sides of the canoe were about 3 inches above the water line.
The prospect of that ride was so unnerving that Joyce chose to stay on the
shore with a very vocal drunk man instead of taking the canoe ride!
I guarantee you, it would not have taken much rocking for that canoe to sink!
Religious people tend to cherish the stable, the secure, the certain. We do
not like other religious people who "rock the boat."
Therein lies a significant problem. Our God is the God Who works in history
by "rocking the boat."
This evening I want to ask you to consider a question seriously. I want you
to think about this question for a much longer period than just the hour you are
in this assembly this evening. The question: "What would have happened if God
told you to rock the boat?"
- A name that is extremely familiar to most of us is the name Abraham.
- Most of us are familiar with God's call to Abraham.
Genesis 12:1-3 Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go forth
from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To
the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I
will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing;
And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will
curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed."
- This is actually the second time God asked Abraham to follow his
- The call we just read came after his father, Terah, died.
- I doubt most of us have ever considered what an enormous request God
made of Abraham.
- The fact that Abraham would even listen to God is incredible.
Joshua 24:2 Joshua said to all the people, "Thus
says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'From ancient times your fathers lived
beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of
Nahor, and they served other gods.
- Abraham grew up in a family that worshipped many gods--he grew up
under the full influence of idolatry.
- There were no Jewish people who knew and worshipped the living
God--the Jewish people eventually descended from him.
- There were no Christian people who knew the living God who sent
Jesus Christ--Abraham was the beginning of God's efforts to send Jesus
- God communicated directly with a man raised to believe in many
gods, and he listened to this new, strange living God who gave him
- The instruction to leave his extended family was unheard of.
- While it is commonplace right now for people to strike out on
their own and leave their extended families, that was not even
commonplace in this society two generations ago.
- It happened here, but it was the exception rather than the rule.
- In Abraham's world it did not happen--it meant leaving security
- The instruction could be compared to the request that a person leave
civilization and go to an unknown frontier.
- Not even we like to leave the known for the unknown!
- God's requests to Abraham were real "rock the boat" requests!
- At first Abraham could not leave his father, the head of the family.
- Terah compromised.
- He took the family to Haran and "settled" there--he had no plans to
- Haran was similar to Ur, but it was much closer to Canaan.
- Evidently Terah was a strong, controlling head of the family.
- God did not call Abraham again until Terah died.
- Only when his father was dead did Abraham leave his extended family.
- Thus began God's journey to the blessing of all people through Jesus
- What if it had been you instead of Abraham?
- What if the living God Whom you did not know made "rocking the boat"
requests of you?
- What if He instructed you to do the unthinkable, something not done by
- Would you do it?
- Let me call some things to your attention.
- Do you have any idea of how hard it is to stop thinking like a slave if
all your family has been for generations is slaves? That was the challenge
the Israelites faced when they left Egypt.
- Do you have any idea of how hard it is to live in a tent in a dessert
and trust God to provide your food and water every day? That was the
challenge facing the Israelites in the wilderness.
- Do you have any idea of how hard it is to settle in a country and
totally reject the religions of that country? That is the challenge that
faced Israel in Canaan.
- Do you have any idea of the difficulty involved when God gives a message
to give to your own people, and no one wants to hear or believe the message?
That often was the situation God's prophets faced.
- I want to call your attention to two Christian situations in the New
- The first situation is found in Acts 9.
- There was a man named Saul [whom we know as the Christian Paul] who
hated Christianity and Christians.
- He thought Christianity opposed the living God's will and was a
grave threat to the nation of Israel.
- His solution: destroy the Christian movement, at that time a Jewish
movement, by killing any Jewish man or woman who believed Jesus was the
Christ sent by God.
- Years later after he had been a Christian for a long time, he
declared these words as he defended himself in a trial.
Acts 26:9-11 So then, I thought to myself that I
had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this
is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the
saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but
also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And
as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to
blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them
even to foreign cities.
- He was on his way to a Jewish synagogue in Damascus, Syria to arrest
Jewish men and women who believed Jesus was the Christ, bind them, and
bring them back to Jerusalem for trial.
- He was almost to Damascus when he personally saw the resurrected
Jesus, knew he was the Christ, and knew he was totally wrong
- Instantly he realized that his error was responsible for the death
of God's people.
- What I want to call your attention to is found in Acts 9:10-16.
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias;
and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias."
And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him,
"Get up and go to the street called Straight, and
inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is
praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay
his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias
answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he
did to Your saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief
priests to bind all who call on Your name." But the Lord said to him,
"Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear
My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will
show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake."
- Let me paraphrase the situation.
- The Lord said, "Ananias, I want you to go to Judas' house where you
will find Saul and restore his sight."
- Ananias said to the Lord, "Wait a minute! I know something about
this man you obviously do not know. I know what he did
to Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. I know why he came
here. I know who gave him authority to do these
horrible things. If You knew what I know, you would not send me to him."
- The Lord knew what Ananias knew and he told Ananias to go on.
- The Lord knew what He was doing.
- If the Lord told you to do something similar, would you do it?
- The second situation is found in Acts 10.
- The situation:
- As far as we know, until this moment all Christians were Jews or
proselytes--no people who did not follow Jewish traditions had been
converted to Christ.
- God's intent from the call of Abraham (Genesis 12:3) was to bring a
blessing to everyone through Abraham's descendants.
- At some point Christianity had to become a world movement to all
people, not just a Jewish movement in the nation of Israel.
- Acts 10 is the time and the point.
- A non-Jew, though a God-fearing person, was instructed to send for
the Jewish Christian Peter to receive the message of the gospel from
- In the meantime, the Lord prepared Peter to receive this request
from a man who is neither a Jew nor a proselyte.
- Peter had a very confusing vision three times, and at the end of
each time was told not to consider what God had cleansed as unholy.
- The Holy Spirit instructed him to go with the gentile men and not
ask questions--for God had sent the men.
- When Peter arrived, he said (10:28, 29), "You know I am doing
something a Jew is forbidden to do. But I came because God told me not
to consider you unholy (common) or unclean. Why did you send for me?"
- Peter was there, but he did not understand why he was there! He
did not "get it."
- Cornelius explained why he sent for Peter.
- Then Peter had one of those eureka moments in which he literally
understood something no other Christian understood at that time.
Acts 10:34,35 "I most certainly
understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in
every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome
- For the first time he understood that a person does not have to be
a Jew or a proselyte to be a Christian.
- God does not care who your father and mother are.
- God does not care what your nationality is.
- If a person reverences God by understanding God at work in Jesus
Christ, God will welcome that person.
- Acts 11:1-3 makes it quite clear that other Christians did not like
Peter having even social contact with people who were not Jews--that was
- Devout Jews did not have gentiles into their homes, and they did
not go into gentiles' homes.
- Devout Jews did not eat food prepared by gentiles.
- All of this had to do with their religious definition of purity.
- Peter did what God wanted him to do, and it cost him dearly--people
who were Christians were much opposed to what he did.
- If God had told you to do something that was very unpopular among
Christians, would you do it?
This is not a hypothetical principle. If you follow God Who gave us Jesus
Christ, there will be moments when you "rock the boat." There always will be
those who do not like it. You will never "rock the boat" to drown people. You
will never allow your arrogance to "rock the boat." You will only allow God's
plans and purposes to "rock the boat."
Sometimes you will find that having faith in God means trusting God enough to
"rock the boat." May God's purposes never be neglected or abandoned because we
lacked the faith in God to "rock the boat."
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 19 June 2005
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