RPM, Volume 15, Number 37, September 8 to September 14, 2013

From Excuses to Miracles

By John McWilliams

Let me greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. This seminar is being brought to you by International Biblical Training in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

This seminar is based on two specific Scriptures; one from The Old Testament and one from The New Testament and it has to do with the very practical situation in all of our lives of making excuses when God calls us to do something.

Often times when God calls us to do something we come up with excuses because we feel that God would never do something great or extraordinary through someone like ourselves because we consider ourselves to nothing special, just simple and very ordinary people. However Scripture teaches us that the reality is that God can do extraordinary things through very ordinary people just like us. He can take our excuses and literally turn them into miracles.

To give us an example of how we make up excuses when God asks us to do something, let me read from Exodus chapter 3 where God asked Moses to go and speak to Pharaoh concerning the people of Israel. In verses 10-12, He said, "Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, 'who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?' He said, 'But I will be with you; and this shall be a sign for you, that I have sent; when you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain.'"

As the passage continues, God promises to be with Moses to tell him what to say and even to give him signs that will accompany what he says so that Pharaoh will be sure that God is with Moses. Yet, Moses keeps coming up with excuses to get out of doing this work that God has called him to do. Then as we read further into chapter 4 and verse 10, Moses continues to come up with excuses.

Verse 10 says, "But Moses said to the Lord, 'Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, . . . I am slow of speech and of tongue.'"

So Moses continues to make up excuses for why this will never work. He makes up so many excuses that God then says all right, I will send your brother Aaron with you. He can speak well. I will give you the words to say. You tell them to Aaron and you can both work together to go to the Pharaoh and tell him what I am demanding of him. Moses was convinced that what God was asking him to do was impossible and so he made up excuses rather than trusting God to do what he says He can do even to the point of working a miracle through him.

Thankfully God is patient with us and works through and around our excuses. In Ephesians chapter 3 verse 20 we read these wonderful words that God has placed there for us.

"Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

Also God tells us in His Word that with Him all things are possible and for God nothing is impossible. So if He tells us that He can do something through us, we should trust Him to do that very thing through us and we should forget about making up excuses which will frustrate what He would like to do through ordinary people just like you and just like me.

Perhaps you recall the story of Abraham and Sarah in Chapter 17 of the book of Genesis. God told them that He would give Sarah a baby when she was nearly 100 years old. We read in chapter 17 verse 17 that when Abraham heard what God had promised, Abraham fell on his face and laughed. He laughed at what God said because he felt it was impossible. Yet God said I will do it and Sarah laughed when she heard about it too, but guess what. The following Spring it came to pass because God said He would do it and He always keeps His promises.

Sometimes we are like Abraham and Sarah. When God tells us to do something we laugh at it because we feel that it would be impossible for something like that to happen through us. However, we forget that the part that is most important is that God says He will do it by his Holy Spirit through us. What we have to do is get out of the way and let Him do His work through us. We have to set aside our excuses to make room for His miracles.

If we are honest, we will admit that often times we feel that God reserves special blessings and miracles to be worked through the great people of The Bible like the Apostle Peter or like Matthew and Mark and Luke and John. We see Him work through people like Moses and Elijah and Mary. Those are the kinds of people through whom He chooses to do great things.

Yet, we forget that all of those people were average every day people. They were common ordinary people that God chose to do extraordinary things through. So we have to see that it is a myth to say that God never does wonderful things, even miraculous things, through average people like you and like me. We often forget that even though we are just one person, we have one God Who is greater than all of us and He can do anything He chooses.

We forget and we say that I'm just one person. Nothing important can be done through just one person. Yet God uses individual common people like you and like me all the time to accomplish His work and to get done the things that He plans to do in this world. The things that stand in the way of that are our excuses. We come up with the excuses when He is asking us to yield to Him and let Him as our God work miracles through us.

Average every day people have made great differences in the history of The Scriptures. We read in II Corinthians chapter 11 versus 32 and 33 an amazing couple of verses that are tucked away in the back of that letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. These verses tell something very special about ordinary people. Listen to what God's Word says to us.

"At Damascus, the governor under King Arteas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped his hands."

Like I said, this is a very interesting few versus tucked away in the back of this letter to the Corinthians. The Apostle Paul was under attack. He was in a situation where the governor was trying to capture him and a group of people whose names we never hear, came to his rescue. God used a group of Christians, average everyday Christians, to rescue Paul and allow him to escape being caught. Even though we never even hear their names, God used them to set Paul free. God used average everyday Christians just like you and me to rescue the Apostle Paul from great danger.

Even though we see in Scripture that God does wonderful and even miraculous things through average people like you and me, we still feel that somehow He would never do it through someone like us. Maybe He would do it through somebody else, but never through me. Therefore we have our doubts and then like Moses we come up with our excuses.

Let's be honest. If God told you today that He would like to do a wondrous thing through you, your reaction might be the same as Abraham and Sarah which was laughing in disbelief. You might come up with a bunch of excuses just like Moses did. However, when you look at it, it's actually the devil who tells us that we can never make a real difference in this world because we are just one person. Surely one person can never be capable of making any real difference in the world is what the devil tells us. He whispers that in our ear, yet were also told in The Bible that the devil is a liar and he lies to us all the time.

God in fact does use average people like you and me to do wonderful things in this world and he does it in a way that blesses the lives of so many others. Let's take a look at some examples from our own time.

Billy Graham is a good example of what I'm talking about in this seminar. Billy Graham is one of the most famous evangelists in the history of the world. Yet he wasn't born in a royal palace. He didn't come from a family that had prestige or money. He was not from the upper class. He was not some kind of genius. He was an everyday person, a Christian who allowed God to use him and to work through him in ways that now have brought millions to Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

God uses ordinary people like you and me to accomplish some very extraordinary things that become blessings to many. He gives them gifts and He gives them talents and those people use their gifts and talents to make the world better. God uses them to do things that have blessed millions.

Let me give you an example from New York City. There's a wonderful old bridge in New York City called The Brooklyn Bridge. It connects Manhattan with the borough of Brooklyn. It spans the East River. Many years ago before it was built people were wondering if it might be possible to build such a bridge. Yet pretty much everybody said that it was out of the question. They said it would be impossible to do such a thing.

However, a man named John Roebling and his associates felt differently. They determined that it would be right to design and build a bridge to span the East River so people could travel more freely between Manhattan and Brooklyn. It would be a very difficult task and nothing of its kind had ever been accomplished previously in the history of the world. However, on May 24, 1883, 130 years ago, The Brooklyn Bridge was opened and it is still open today allowing cars and people to travel over the East River safely.

It's a suspension bridge with two main towers. Each tower is about 130 feet above the water. In fact, when the first tower was finished being built it was the largest free standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. People came from all around just to look at this new wonder in the world that was so large, so big and so free standing.

New machines had to be invented that had previously never existed just to make certain things to make this bridge possible. Lots of people came up with excuses when they were asked about whether such a bridge could be built, but John Roebling put aside the excuses and used his God-given talents to make something wonderful which has blessed millions of people over the years.

Then there were two young men, preacher's boys, who lived in Dayton Ohio who were bicycle repairman and lived in the early 20th. Century. They worked hard in their bicycle shop and they were also printers. Yet beyond their normal work they had a dream; a dream that man could one day fly like the birds. They had no particular scientific training. They had not gone to college. Their father was a famous pastor in the United States and they had been brought up in a Christian home, so they had seen that God can do wonderful things.

So they set out on their dream to make it possible for man to be able to fly. Their names were Orville and Wilbur Wright and their work is now of course world famous. They were the ones who invented the airplane.

They were the ones who went against all of the criticism and all of the people who said it was impossible and continued to develop their own research and their own way of doing things to the point where they developed the first airplane.

Then they continued to develop other airplanes and improve on their first model until today when we see what their work has given the world. They could have made all kinds of excuses. They could have said, "All right it must be impossible to move forward to invent this airplane." They had many times when they were ready to give up and when they felt that they would never be able to conquer the different kinds of obstacles and challenges that they had to conquer to make that first airplane fly.

Yet they did it and they did it with the assistance of Almighty God. In fact, once they had invented the airplane they applied for a patent so that they could have the exclusive rights to making airplanes. They sent their invention information in to the Patent Office in Washington D. C. The Patent Office responded by telling them that they should never waste the time of the Patent Office by submitting things for patents which are impossible.

Even though it was already a reality and had already flown, the Patent Office blatantly said that they would never give a patent to somebody who was trying to make something that was impossible.

Well, for God nothing is impossible and for God all things are possible. These men were common every day men. They had a common every day job as printers and bicycle repair men, but God took these common men and gave them insight and special gifts that they used for His glory. God worked through them to do some extraordinary things, very uncommon things and things which still today bless the world.

Many of us have been in situations where we feel that just being one person allows us to accomplish perhaps a little bit of something, but never very much of anything. After all we are just one person. Like Moses we doubt that we will any real effect that would be a blessing? We are just one individual in the entire world and when we are in those situations we feel sometimes as if anything that we can do will make very little difference at all. So we make up our excuses.

However, we can make a difference and when we stop with the excuses, God can work and do blessings and even miracles. In some cases what people do literally saves lives.

Listen to this story from World War II. The story takes place over the city of Kassel, Germany. An American B-17 bomber was on its bombing run over that city. As they approached the city, anti-aircraft fire from the ground was heavy. One of the most efficient anti-aircraft cannons that had been developed by the Germans was the 20 mm cannon. It was especially effective against aircraft that were flying low-level bombing runs. Each of the 20 mm shells fired out of the cannon had inside of it, an explosive charge that would detonate as soon as it hit an airplane. So the shell would hit the airplane and then explode.

As the aircraft flew, one of those 20 mm shells pierced the gas tank of the airplane, but it never exploded. The plane returned safely to its base and when inspected, it was discovered that the shell indeed had gone through the wing where the fuel tanks were located and it was recovered from the fuel tank.

Yet, as I said before, it never exploded. When the captain of the aircraft found out about it he asked if he could have the shell as a souvenir of the flight. Under normal circumstances his wish would be granted, but he was told that that particular shell had been taken to a special intelligence area to be examined. Of course the captain wondered why and he was told that in addition to that shell which had pierced the gas tank of his airplane, 10 others shells had done the same thing and none of them had exploded.

To everybody's amazement, they had found 11 unexploded anti-aircraft shells inside the aircraft's fuel tank after it landed. That captain must have felt that he was the luckiest captain on the face of the earth. However he was about to find out that he wasn't the luckiest captain in the world, but instead, perhaps the most blessed.

The 11 unexploded shells were taken to a special place where they could be examined and disarmed. As they were being disarmed every single one of the 11 shells was found to be without an explosive charge. In other words, the explosives that are put in the shell to make it explode when it hits an aircraft were missing in all 11 shells. This was a complete mystery, however something they did find in one of the shells solved the mystery completely.

Inside one of those shells was found a tightly rolled up piece of paper. The paper was taken out of the shell and unrolled. It had writing on it and it was obvious that somebody had hand written a note, rolled it up and put it inside the shell. The problem was it was in a foreign language. It was written in Czech and since none of the people who were examining the shells could speak Czech, they went around the base trying to find somebody who might speak enough Czech to translate the note.

They found the right person and they gave that person the note to translate. Here is what the note said. It said, "This is all we can do for you for now." What that meant was that a group of Czechoslovakian prisoners, who had been captured by the Nazi army and forced to work in a factory making anti-aircraft shells, had taken it upon themselves to remove the explosive charges from inside those 11 shells.

What they had done was extremely dangerous. If it had been found out that they were doing such a thing they would certainly been taken out and executed. Yet they obviously felt that trying to save any lives they could, especially of those who were trying to save theirs and to free them from Nazi Germany, was worth the risk.

Certainly they could have come up with a million excuses never to do such a thing. Yet they went beyond their excuses and because they did "all" they could do for now, they saved the lives of an entire aircraft crew.

They went beyond excuses at their own peril to bring blessings to people they had never even met. In their situation they could have said, "We are only a few people. We are prisoners under one of the most horrible regimes in the world. We can do nothing. Yet they moved beyond excuses and they did what they could "for now" and because they did what they could "for now," lives were changed, lives were saved and people were blessed.

Some years ago I had the privilege of being invited by a former student of mine in Costa Rica to go into the Panamanian jungle to be a guest speaker and preacher at a conference that we would lead for a number of Panamanian native Indian tribes. These were tribes of indigenous Indians located in the jungle. One of the chiefs of one of the tribes had become a Christian and a number of people in his tribe had followed in his footsteps and had also become Christians. So he had invited the Christians that were in 11 different other tribes in the area to come and take part in this conference which would be about three days long. It would be a time when those new Christians could come and be taught some of the things that were basic for them as they grew in their faith.

It was a long trip to get to the jungle. It took about 17 hours from San Jose, Costa Rica. Once we arrived near where the Indians lived, we stayed at the small house of a man who was a pastor to these Indians. He too had been a former student of mine. When morning came we were picked up and taken by truck to the top of a mountain where we then had to climb down the mountain into the jungle area and into a river valley where there was a large opening or clearing where we could hold this particular conference.

It was near the village of the host Indian tribe. The chief, chief Daniel, was very welcoming of me and allowed me to be very much a part of the work of his tribe. He made me feel at home as we were brothers in Christ. After everybody arrived from the different tribes we were able to start the conference. It took a little bit of time for some to get there as walking a long distance in the jungle is not an easy thing to do. I was just blessed that I was able to be there and to be able to teach and bring The Gospel to a group of people who had recently become Christians and who were looking to learn and grow in their faith.

One of the seminars that I was planning to teach was a seminar of mine which you can also find on the Third Millennium website and is on the subject of forgiveness. My former student and now a pastor, who had invited me to come and be the speaker at this conference, felt that it would be very important to teach on the subject of forgiveness.

One of the reasons that he felt it was important to teach on forgiveness was because of the history in this tribe of how they dealt with disagreements. They were often very unkind to each other and if the disagreements were large enough, violence was something that they saw as a normal option. In fact if they disagreed with somebody enough, they would simply murder them.

Men in this tribe also had a very strange practice to make themselves look strong and fierce to other people. I had never seen anything like it. What they did was to take a metal file and file every single one of their teeth to a point so when they opened their mouths, every tooth in their mouth was sharp and pointed like a normal incisor tooth would be. It makes a person look pretty fierce and pretty mean and that was their goal. Trust me, it worked.

So we were dealing with a culture that settled things in violent ways and for which forgiveness was somewhat foreign. However I was just one person and I was a person that was very foreign to them. I was very different from them. I had a different color skin. I spoke a different language. I had different hair. I looked like a completely different person and yet I was being asked to teach them about forgiveness.

I was just one person. You have to wonder what can one person do under circumstances like that to make a difference. To be honest with you I never expected very much to come out of what I was teaching. However, I did teach it in obedience to what God called me to do there and that is the key. In spite of feeling that perhaps very little would happen because I was only one person, I still allowed room for God to work through me and the seminar on forgiveness. I still allowed the Holy Spirit to do His work and when I did, God did some amazing things.

He did these things in spite of my doubts. He did these things in spite of anything that I did as I taught on the subject of forgiveness from the Scriptures God's Word. The Holy Spirit Of God touched these people. He convicted them of their sin, of their violence and their spirit of non-forgiveness. As I finished teaching the seminar, I looked out and I saw these strong fierce looking men actually crying. Tears were coming down their faces. They were going to each other and asking each other for forgiveness. They were embracing each other in hugs of forgiveness. It was a marvelous thing to see and it was all done by God. God did it and He used an ordinary person like me to do something extraordinary, something that He was pleased to do and something He accomplished through His Word in spite of me.

He can certainly do the same thing through you. You may be only one person, but we worship A Mighty God. We should never say to ourselves that because I'm only one person I can do very little for The Lord. The Scriptures are full of illustrations of how God used ordinary people to accomplish His extraordinary plans.

Let me close this seminar by sharing the story with you about a man who studied at the New Life Bible College in Moscow, Russia. I have been there many times to teach and minister and it is always a privilege to see how people in those situations come to Christ and then go out and minister for Christ. This particular man's name is Sanjik Kukeev. His last name is pronounced Coo-Kai-Ev. He comes from the country of Kalmykia, which is a former Soviet Union country located on the Northwest shore of the Caspian Sea.

He came to Christ as his Savior through a ministry called Athletes in Action which is a ministry that is a sports ministry. They go and play different sports teams in different countries and during the intermission in the basketball game for instance, they have a chance to share their faith in Jesus Christ. Sanjik was at one of those events and he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

The only problem was that he was of a royal family in that country of Kalmykia and that royal family one day would make him the ruler of the religion in his nation. Kalmykia was a Buddhist country. It was the only country in the former Soviet Union group of countries that was Buddhist. Therefore Sanjik accepting Christ as his Savior and becoming a Christian was a very big step for him to take. It could mean all kinds of things including being cut off from his family for turning his back on his native religion of Buddhism.

Yet he felt led to follow Jesus and later felt led to study to be a pastor and that is what brought him to the New Life Bible College in Moscow. He went there and started his studies to become a pastor. One of the first things that the school teaches is how to share your faith with other people and how to see other people come to Christ.

The problem was that Sanjik had a particular feeling about this kind of thing. He somehow felt that the only way that people became Christians was to hear The Gospel inside a Church building, inside the four walls if you will, of the Church building. He felt people never came to Christ outside the Church building.

So some people who were more experienced at evangelism took him under their wing and took him out on the streets of Moscow and showed him how it was that they could share their faith with other people and lead other people to Christ outside of a Church building.

Well, he learned that he had initially been wrong about his style of evangelism and he quickly adopted this new way of reaching people for Christ. He started to share his faith in a number of ways on the streets of Moscow and at different settings in the city over the two-year period that he was studying at the college. He started groups for people on the campus of Moscow University and witnessed in various capacities and saw numerous people come to Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Yet he was just one person. He was one individual who was being used by God in a wonderful way. Then came the time for Sanjik to graduate with his class. When that time came he went to the administration and asked if he could be excused from going to the graduation ceremonies with the rest of his fellow students. This was a shock to the administration because everybody seemed to enjoy going to graduation. In fact attending the graduation ceremony was mandatory for all students if they were going to graduate. However Sanjik was asking for that rule to be waived in his case. The administration was unsure why he was making such a strange request.

So they asked him why he would like to miss the graduation and he said that he had an appointment with the president of his country to share The Gospel with him the day after graduation. So, if he attended the graduation in Moscow, and then took the train all the way back to his country, he would be too late to keep his appointment with his president. He would therefore miss the opportunity to share The Gospel with the president of his country.

After hearing Sanjik's reason to miss the graduation ceremony, the administration felt that his reason was quite good. However they still felt that it would be a good thing for him to be at the graduation. So the people of the administration took up a special offering for Sanjik and bought him an airplane ticket back to his country. That way he would be able to go to graduation and then leave and fly to his country the next day in time to keep his appointment with this president which is exactly what he did.

When he met with his president he shared The Gospel Of Jesus Christ with him. He had a personal Bible with his president's own name on it made up for him and he presented his president with that Bible. After sharing The Gospel with his president he asked him if his president would like to accept Christ as his Savior and Lord just as Sanjik himself had done. The president told Sanjik that he felt that he had to have more time to consider that offer. However, the president said to Sanjik that he was very impressed with Sanjik's personal faith in Jesus as his Savior and Lord.

In fact he was so impressed that he was told Sanjik that he was going to do something special, something that was virtually never done. He went on to tell Sanjik exactly what that something was and what that something was proved beyond doubt that the Bible is correct in Isaiah where it says that God will honor those who honor Him.

Sanjik had honored God and had been faithful to God and had obeyed God to share The Gospel, even with the president of his country and God was working in that president. God was allowing that president to see Sanjik's faith in a way that moved that president to do that very special thing. He told Sanjik that he would personally give him the right and privilege to take his ministry into and use any of the public government buildings in the entire country.

This Buddhist president told Sanjik that he could share his faith in Christ freely and use any of the government's buildings in the country to do it. He could hold meetings and Bible studies and Worship Services and other ministry opportunities in those buildings and that's exactly what Sanjik did.

One day when Sanjik was ministering in a government facility he met a woman who was 90+ years old and he shared The Gospel with her. Afterwards she looked at him and she said I have been waiting to hear this kind of news all of my life.

What a blessing it was for Sanjik to be able to be given this privilege of taking The Gospel and ministry of Christ throughout the country of Kalmykia and using the government buildings and facilities to get that ministry accomplished.

He was just one man, but he had faith in a God Who was greater than himself, faith in a God Who could do all things. In fact when he left the New Life Bible College he left with a hand written 17 year plan to reach every single person in his home country of Kalmykia and the last time I checked he was on schedule to seeing that wonderful goal accomplished.

I trust that this seminar will stand as an encouragement to you and it will be something that you refer back to from time to time, especially on those days when you feel that you are just one person and that God could do very little through one person like you.

Let it be an encouragement to you to see time and time again how God has used just one person to reach thousands of people, even millions of people with His Love.

God can do the impossible. Nothing is too hard for our God and our Savior!

Keep that in your soul. Let that be food from Heaven for your soul. Every day get up with the encouragement that says that God can use you to do wonderful and blessed things. He can use you to do things that for you may seem impossible, but for Him are easy. He is a God of His Word. He is God of the impossible and through even one person like you or me He can accomplish His wonderful plan.

As you continue your ministry, may The Fruit Of The Holy Spirit be born and produced in all that you do so when people see you they will see Jesus. Amen.

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