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Great Men Are Not Born

Acts 7:17-29

Jim Davis

What is the first thing you do when you experience failure? Our modern idea that winning is everything forces us to hide from our failures. Also, our modern ideas about success and failure force many to see themselves as failures. It is one thing to fail, but quite another thing to see yourself as a failure. We may spend our lives running from our failures because we think we are failures.

Have you ever noticed that resumes only list a person's accomplishments? Resumes never list our failures. It would be more encouraging to others to allow them to see our struggles with our failures. We hear many share their stories of success, but how many share their stories of failure? We are too concerned about what others will think about us to share our failures.

God shares the failures of great persons in the Bible. He wants to encourage us by helping us realize they were as human as we are. Noah got drunk, Abraham lied, Jacob was a cheat, Joseph was arrogant, and Moses was a murderer. You can't get more human.

Christianity does not promise us peace, happiness and reconciliation with God without failure. Being a Christian doesn't make life any less real. Christ does not eliminate our problems. He does erase the sins of the past, but he doesn't erase the influence of our past. Our past is ever with us as we deal with its influence on our lives in the present. You may try to rid yourself of your past, but your past will not rid itself of you.

Moses serves as a prime example of an ancient person with a modern day problem. He was running and hiding from his failures and living far below God's potential for his life for he saw himself as a failure.

Acts 7:17-29
"As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt. He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die. "At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child. For three months he was cared for in his father's house. When he was placed outside, Pharaoh's daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action. "When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, 'Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?' "But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, 'Who made you ruler and judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?' When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons. (NIV)

Understanding God's Call

Moses sensed God's calling to deliver his people. I wish we could sense God's call for our lives. God has chosen each of you for a specific purpose. He has placed you in Christ body to fulfill his calling. Somewhere, in the scheme of things we have lost a sense of God's calling and purpose.

Growing up in the Egyptian palace didn't make Moses special. He was special when he was born. However, great men aren't born--they are made. Growing up in Egypt and being set apart by God at birth didn’t eliminate the possibility of failure. Sensing God’s call is not the same thing as understanding and fulfilling God’s call. Many are called but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:14) Many who are called are not chosen because they fail to be molded by God's will. The great men and women of the Bible were made great as they yielded to God's will.

Sensing God's call is not the same thing as understanding God's call. Seemingly, Moses thought he could rally the Hebrews around himself by coming to their defense. He thought he could show his concern by being a peacemaker as he settled their personal disputes. Evidently, this was his understanding of what God called him to do. But he failed. He didn't fail because he lacked a sense of God's calling. He failed because he misunderstood God's will.

We may end up trying to do the work God has ordained for us without proper knowledge of his will. Too often churches lose a sense of their purpose because they lose sight of God’s will. We may lose a sense of purpose because we see organization more important than spiritual growth. We may struggle to create an organization rather than build lives. We may understand God’s mission but fail to help people understand his will for their lives.

When Ezekiel was called to preach God stressed to him the importance of understanding God's will for his calling. God wanted Ezekiel to digest God's will for himself before he set out to teach others.

Ezekiel 2:7-3:4
You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you." Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll, which he unrolled before me. On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe.

And he said to me, "Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. He then said to me: "Son of man, go now to the house of Israel and speak my words to them. (NIV)

God wanted Ezekiel to digest the Scriptures for himself. Ezekiel needed specific knowledge of God's will. Sometimes we get indigestion when we try to digest God's word for our own lives. It conflicts with our own plans for our lives. However, if we really seek to digest God's word properly it will taste as sweet as honey.

You can't fill God's calling for your life depending upon human resources and human wisdom. Moses was reared with the finest education the world had to offer in ancient times. "Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action." He was indeed the prince of Egypt. They saw to it that he graduated at the top of his class. His verbal skills were excellent. An Egyptian education left him unprepared to fulfill his calling.

God's call is never achieved through worldly means. There was a lesson Moses had to learn before he could fulfill God's potential for his life. You cannot sow of the flesh and expect a spiritual harvest. The wisdom of the world is not God’s will. Moses gives us a little more insight into what he did and what he was thinking as he writes Exodus.

Exodus 2:11-12
One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. (NIV)

There is nothing more dangerous than a sense of God's purpose without an understanding of God’s will. "Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand." It is obvious that Moses was relying on worldly wisdom to win a spiritual battle. He sought to win the battle for God in his own strength. Moses was misguided in seeking to fulfill God's purpose. It is no accident that when he came to the Hebrews to offer his leadership the following day they mocked him. They couldn't even see any human wisdom in killing the Egyptian. Sensing God's purpose without relying on God’s wisdom will lead us to connive, manipulate and scheme to accomplish God's will for our lives.

God’s wisdom gives us an understanding as to when and how things should be done. God is not limited to what he can do, but he will do it in his own timing and not before. "One blow struck when the time is right is worth a thousand struck in premature eagerness." Forcing things to be done is a fleshly response. Forcing things to be done is not God's will. When we are responding to God's will things flow together smoothly.

Many in the church are burned out because they have been running on human ingenuity. They think they are doing God’s will. They have worked hard for the church, but the only thing that keeps them going is human strength and human ingenuity. They are burned out. Burnout usually leaves us feeling a lack of accomplishment. When we are not accomplishing our goals we either get busier or quit. We get that feeling that we must do something even if it is wrong! We either quit or try harder to accomplish more. We think if it is to be, it is up to me.

We must begin to meditate on God’s will so that we can begin living within his will. The best thing to do when you feel like it is up to you is to put on the brakes. Stop and get refocused on God's will---then you can accomplish his purpose in your life. You can’t fill God’s specific call without specific knowledge of God’s will.  Moses sincerely thought that God was in his plans to deliver the Hebrews when he killed the Egyptian. It baffled him to think it didn't work. The reason it didn't work was because God wasn’t in it.

Losing A Sense of God's Purpose

Misunderstanding God's will cause us to lose a sense of God's calling. Every painful memory of Egypt reminded Moses of his greatest failure. Those memories are so vivid. He knows that he has failed in the calling he thought was so real. Now he doubts his calling and loses a sense of God's purpose for his life. So he finds a new purpose. He loses himself in a self-chosen occupation as a shepherd. There was only one problem. That was not where God wanted him to be. Now Moses is not only out of the will of God, he is also not in the place where God wants him to be. He has missed his calling because of a lack of understanding.

Waiting on God is the hardest thing in life. When we get tired of waiting we begin to force our own will and own way upon others. We begin to push and strain and dump emotional garbage to get things moving in the direction we think they should go. We usually end up in disaster. Moses was further away from God than he had ever been because he wanted to accomplish too much on his own too soon.

As we study the life of Moses it is evident that he lost a sense of God's purpose for his life. We may be exactly where God has placed us, but we must also be living within God’s will. Trying to force human solutions upon others may cause us to lose a sense of God's purpose when we fail. We think God should honor our battle plans when we should be honoring his battle plans. Our plans won’t work.

After forty years Moses probably had finally pushed the thoughts of Egypt and the sense of God’s purpose into the dark recesses of his mind. Now he has a new life and a new family. During his forty years in Midian Moses had cleaned up his resume. However, Moses learned that he couldn't hide his failures without them coming back to haunt him. He had hid the Egyptian he murdered in the sand, but it came back to haunt him. He had hid himself in Midian for forty years, but God's purpose continued to haunt him. After forty years of silence God spoke to Moses.

How many times during that 40 years in Midian do you think Moses rehearsed his failures in his mind? Each time he rehearses the failures, his bitterness and resentment was enlarged. He knew that he had sincerely tried to no avail. He had probably convinced himself that his sincerity was the all-important ingredient to success. He believed that his sincerity would make his battle plans work. He had sincerely given his all. What else could he do but put the whole bitter experience behind him and forget it? But God wouldn't let him forget Heaven's set purpose for His life. Moses is brought face to face with what God ordained him to do. God faces Moses in the burning bush.

Exodus 3:7-11
The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey-- the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" (NIV)

Forty years in the wilderness taught Moses one major lesson we must all learn in life. Moses learned his inability to hide his problems from God. When we run from our failures in an effort to deal with them, we may discover that our failures will not hide from us. Eventually we will have to deal with them as they continue to resurface in other areas of our lives. When Moses told the children of Israel, "Your sins will find you out." (Numbers 32:23) He was speaking from experience.

If you hide from your failures in one marriage, they will resurface in the next marriage. If you hide from your failures in one job, they will resurface in your next place of employment. You may hide from your failure as a parent, but your failures will resurface in the lives of your children and your children's children.

If we refuse to face our failures in this life, we will have to face them in judgment. How much better would it be to face them now?

It Takes More Than A Renewed Sense of God's Calling

The easiest thing in the world to do is to seek to renew your sense of God's call while neglecting his will for your life. God had appeared to Moses in the burning bush to persuade Moses to return to Egypt to deliver the Hebrews. Moses made excuses for not going. Who would believe him? He wasn't an eloquent speaker? So God manifest his miraculous powers. Moses' hand becomes leprous and God heals it. God turns Moses staff into a snake, and then he turns it back into his staff. Then God gives Moses, Aaron his brother, to speak for him. Moses is finally persuaded to go. The sense of God’s call is finally reborn.

Exodus 4:18-23
Then Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, "Let me go back to my own people in Egypt to see if any of them are still alive."

Jethro said, "Go, and I wish you well." Now the LORD had said to Moses in Midian, "Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead." So Moses took his wife and sons, put them on a donkey and started back to Egypt. And he took the staff of God in his hand.

The LORD said to Moses, "When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, 'This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, "Let my son go, so he may worship me." But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'" (NIV)

God had renewed his call to Moses and Moses was persuaded to accept God's call. Yet, there was something amiss. In spite of a renewed sense of God’s call Moses still wasn't in the will of God. "At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met him and was about to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint knife, cut off her son's foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it. "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me," she said. So the LORD let him alone. (At that time she said "bridegroom of blood," referring to circumcision.) (Exodus 4:24-26 NIV) Moses was minimizing the necessity of doing God's will.

Moses was ignoring a part of God's covenant that demonstrated his disobedience. God can't use you in his service if you refuse to obey his will. Moses was like many of us. We are willing to be in the right place--the place where God calls us to--but we minimize the necessity of doing God's will. Moses had minimized the necessity of circumcising his son. "At a lodging place on the way, the LORD met him and was about to kill him."

Circumcision was like Christian baptism. It is the place where we acknowledge our personal surrender to God's will. It is the place where we dedicate our all to God. Moses had not dedicated his all to God. He did not circumcise his son according to God's will. He was seeking to go to the place of God's calling without obedience to God's will.

God made it undeniably clear that he could not use Moses until Moses surrendered in obedience. Moses couldn't expect to go to Egypt and ask the Pharaoh to obey God without having a willingness to obey himself. Moses had to learn an important lesson. If his wife wouldn't circumcise his son, God was going to kill him. He was already incapacitated to the point where he couldn't do it himself. God would kill him for his disobedience just as sure as God promised to kill the Pharaoh’s firstborn for Pharaoh’s disobedience.

When it comes to obedience, God means business. Many desire to serve the Lord while ignoring their need to be baptized. Many who have been baptized are seeking to take refuge in the body of Christ while ignoring God's will for their lives. They are not living up to their calling. The church has placed its emphasizes on where people ought to be. We are excluding the necessity of being what God has called us to be. We are called to this specific place for the purpose of obeying God's will. Without obeying God's will, we will never fulfill God's purpose for our lives. Our sins will surely find us out.

I would like to think that we are here this morning because of the providence of God. In fact, I am sure of it. All the blessings of this new place of worship and new members are great. Yet, enjoying the providence of God is no substitute for obedience. Only our obedience will allow God to lead this congregation to fulfill his will.

God's province may have put you here, but only your obedience will allow God to fulfill his purpose for your life. God's providence always brings you to the place you need be, but only you can determine to do the will of God. This is why many are called and few are chosen. Too few choose to do God's will. When we are willing to do God's will God chooses to use us to fulfill his purpose for our lives.

Doing God's will is something each of us must decide to do. Moses wanted to be a man of God, but God let him know that it was impossible without obedience. We may think that no one would have ever noticed that Moses' son wasn't circumcised. Circumcision seems very personal and private, but everyone would have known. There are a lot of personal and private matters that affect others.  God's will is very personal and private, but it affects everyone around you.Our disobedience stinks to the high heavens. Even the Pharaoh would have heard the cries from the circumcised Hebrews. Our success is dependent upon us doing God's will.

Personal Obedience Allows God to Work

Your personal obedience makes it possible for God's powerful will to be done in your life. The moment you surrender--God goes to work in a very personal way. God begins to move people and events when we decide to obey.

Exodus 4:27-31
The LORD said to Aaron, "Go into the desert to meet Moses." So he met Moses at the mountain of God and kissed him. Then Moses told Aaron everything the LORD had sent him to say, and also about all the miraculous signs he had commanded him to perform. Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped. (NIV)

God sends Aaron to greet Moses. It is Aaron who tells the people everything the Lord has said to Moses. Forty years earlier when Moses had gone alone they mocked Moses, but now God is in it. They believe Moses because God causes them to believe in him. They believe Moses because now it is evident that he is living within the will of God. Now Moses is not telling them what he is going to do for them, but God is telling them what He is going to do through Moses.

Do you see the difference it makes? Now it is not forced but comes as the natural outcome of God's purpose and will.


God's grace is free but don't ever think it is cheap. You have probably discovered that most things in life that are free are usually never cheap. Grace forces us to face our greatest failures head-on through repentance. If we think for a moment that grace only involves forgiveness of the past, we will find ourselves hopelessly running from our failures as they continue to resurface throughout lives.

Too often we see success as the absence of failure. The adversity failure brings is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.

Psalms 119:67, 71-72
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word . . . It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. (NIV)

Your greatest hindrance in fulfilling God’s plan for your life is yourself.
You must sense that God has a purpose for your life.
You must understand God’s will for your life.
You must wait upon God’s timing for your life.
You must obey God’s plan for your life.
Then you will experience the availability of God’s power for your life.


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