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?"

  1. A name that is extremely familiar to most of us is the name Abraham.
    1. 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."
      1. This is actually the second time God asked Abraham to follow his directions.
      2. The call we just read came after his father, Terah, died.
      3. I doubt most of us have ever considered what an enormous request God made of Abraham.
        1. 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.
          1. Abraham grew up in a family that worshipped many gods--he grew up under the full influence of idolatry.
          2. There were no Jewish people who knew and worshipped the living God--the Jewish people eventually descended from him.
          3. 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 Christ.
          4. God communicated directly with a man raised to believe in many gods, and he listened to this new, strange living God who gave him strange instructions!
        2. The instruction to leave his extended family was unheard of.
          1. 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.
          2. It happened here, but it was the exception rather than the rule.
          3. In Abraham's world it did not happen--it meant leaving security for insecurity.
        3. The instruction could be compared to the request that a person leave civilization and go to an unknown frontier.
          1. Not even we like to leave the known for the unknown!
      4. God's requests to Abraham were real "rock the boat" requests!
    2. At first Abraham could not leave his father, the head of the family.
      1. Terah compromised.
        1. He took the family to Haran and "settled" there--he had no plans to go further.
        2. Haran was similar to Ur, but it was much closer to Canaan.
      2. Evidently Terah was a strong, controlling head of the family.
        1. God did not call Abraham again until Terah died.
        2. Only when his father was dead did Abraham leave his extended family.
      3. Thus began God's journey to the blessing of all people through Jesus Christ.
    3. What if it had been you instead of Abraham?
      1. What if the living God Whom you did not know made "rocking the boat" requests of you?
      2. What if He instructed you to do the unthinkable, something not done by anyone?
      3. Would you do it?

  2. Let me call some things to your attention.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.

  3. I want to call your attention to two Christian situations in the New Testament.
    1. The first situation is found in Acts 9.
      1. There was a man named Saul [whom we know as the Christian Paul] who hated Christianity and Christians.
        1. He thought Christianity opposed the living God's will and was a grave threat to the nation of Israel.
        2. 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.
        3. 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.
      2. 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.
        1. He was almost to Damascus when he personally saw the resurrected Jesus, knew he was the Christ, and knew he was totally wrong
        2. Instantly he realized that his error was responsible for the death of God's people.
      3. 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."
        1. Let me paraphrase the situation.
        2. The Lord said, "Ananias, I want you to go to Judas' house where you will find Saul and restore his sight."
        3. 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."
        4. The Lord knew what Ananias knew and he told Ananias to go on.
        5. The Lord knew what He was doing.
      4. If the Lord told you to do something similar, would you do it?
    2. The second situation is found in Acts 10.
      1. The situation:
        1. 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.
        2. God's intent from the call of Abraham (Genesis 12:3) was to bring a blessing to everyone through Abraham's descendants.
        3. At some point Christianity had to become a world movement to all people, not just a Jewish movement in the nation of Israel.
        4. Acts 10 is the time and the point.
        5. 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 him.
        6. In the meantime, the Lord prepared Peter to receive this request from a man who is neither a Jew nor a proselyte.
          1. 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.
          2. The Holy Spirit instructed him to go with the gentile men and not ask questions--for God had sent the men.
        7. 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?"
          1. Peter was there, but he did not understand why he was there! He did not "get it."
          2. Cornelius explained why he sent for Peter.
          3. Then Peter had one of those eureka moments in which he literally understood something no other Christian understood at that time. Listen:
            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 to Him."
          4. For the first time he understood that a person does not have to be a Jew or a proselyte to be a Christian.
          5. God does not care who your father and mother are.
          6. God does not care what your nationality is.
          7. If a person reverences God by understanding God at work in Jesus Christ, God will welcome that person.
        8. 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 completely inappropriate.
          1. Devout Jews did not have gentiles into their homes, and they did not go into gentiles' homes.
          2. Devout Jews did not eat food prepared by gentiles.
          3. All of this had to do with their religious definition of purity.
        9. Peter did what God wanted him to do, and it cost him dearly--people who were Christians were much opposed to what he did.
        10. 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."

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 19 June 2005

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