Worth Doing Badly

Intro: Read Acts 7:17-36 – we studied this passage in our Bible class at Lamplight Nursing Home on Friday. I found that interesting because a few days earlier we studied the original account of this event in Naples – Exodus 3.

I. I am Not Qualified… In that passage we learn of God’s call to Moses out of the burning bush, and Moses’ response. At times what God wants us to do seems overwhelming – too hard.

  • Ex 3:11But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”
    • God’s answer was, I will be with you, and He gave Moses His personal name – I AM that I AM.
  • Ex 4:10 – Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
    • God’s answer was to remind him that He was the one who created his tongue, and then provided Aaron as his spokesman to Pharaoh.

Was Moses being genuine with Jehovah? Was this a plea of humility?

  • When the one-talent servant was trying to explain why he had done nothing with his master’s money, he tried to make it look as if he had done the prudent thing, considering how modest his investment skills were: “I was afraid, you are a hard man… etc.” (Mt. 25:24, 25).
  • These events can tell me something about my own excuses, and those of others.

II. The Responsibility Remains… But neither Moses’ nor the one-talent servant’s “humility” excused them from doing their work. The call and commands of the Lord remained. At times, what might appear as modesty and humility is a cover for negligence, laziness and cowardice.

  • “I can’t” sometimes means little more than “I don’t want to.”
  • “Someone else can do it better” frequently translates into “I would rather someone else do it, period.”

A. At times God qualifies us after he calls us to the work. Moses was a different person that he was 40 years earlier in Egypt. But there was much for Moses to learn for him to become the leader the job required. The apostles were called to their work long before they were qualified. We must strive for excellence, but we dare not decline the call to work merely because we do not think we can do it as well as it could be done by others.

1. The work of the Lord is too urgent and important. Saving lives.

            • Mark 16:15-16 – And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
            • 2 Thess 1:6-10since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day…The work of evangelism is a matter of life and death. If it were a matter of saving physical lives, we would have no trouble seeing our responsibility: if we were the first to come upon the scene of an auto accident, we would not think of standing by and letting victims die in a burning vehicle while we waited for more skilled rescuers to arrive. There are some responsibilities where a person must do he can. Even if others could do it better.

2. “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” This little quotation from G. K. Chesterton contains an important insight. When a task deserves to be done at all, it deserves a less-than-perfect attempt while we are learning to do the thing better. As John Henry Newman said, “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.” Most things must be done relatively poorly before they can be done passably well

3. True humility demands that we obey rather than make excuses. The shirker is not truly humble. Humility does not demand that we settle for ineptitude or mediocrity, but we must have the true humility to do a mediocre job at first while we are trying to improve our skills.

a. In fact, excuses are usually motivated by pride, not humility. We do not want to be embarrassed, or do a job that would look inferior by comparison to someone else’s work.

b. Matt 6:1Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Jesus’ words indentify the attitude of pride that does things to seen by others. This is applicable to individuals and congregations. We dare not reject or discourage the work of some because they do not do it as well as others.

c. The truly humble person does not shirk work he needs to be involved in — he swallows his selfish pride enough to make a fool of himself, if need be, in the attempt to do something that is worth his effort.

B. Here Am I, send Me” – The Lord is looking for people who will heed the call: Isa 6:1-10 – In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. 2 Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” 8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” 9 And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ 10 “Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they seewith their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.”

1. Isaiah was humbled and shown his real deficiencies before God. But his humility was not the foundation for an excuse. It was the foundation for an obedient response. “Here am I! Send me” (Isa. 6:8). He evidently understood the Lord is not looking for people who can do everything; He is looking for people who will try to do anything, and put their trust in God.

            • Who are the people in this congregation who are humble enough to do something without making excuses? In nearly every congregation, there is a handful of Christians who are busy doing whatever they have the opportunity to do. Especially in evangelism. They are indeed refreshing and vital.

2. Jesus commended Mary when others were saying she should have done nothing by telling those detractors, “leave her alone, she has done what she could. (Mk. 14:8). Those are working and whom God is using are not always the multi-talented, conspicuously-gifted ones, and they never sound a trumpet to call attention to their work. They are just workers, having placed no restrictions on the nature of the work they are willing to attempt in the salvation of other people’s souls.

C. It is not about me, anyway. God’s answer to Moses’ excuse points us to an indispensable truth in this discussion. The whole subject of evangelism, and any task God calls us to, is not dependent on my ability. He will accomplish Hid work. It is about what He can do. What is too difficult for Him?

        • 2 Cor 3:5-6 – Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
        • The apostle Paul gives us an opposite perspective – He found his triumph is times of his weakness, when he had to depend on God alone. The Lord is never more pleased than when we do what we can with limited resources.
        • Jesus said that the poor widow who put her last two mites into the temple treasury had “put in more than all” (Mk. 12:43, 44).
        • Paul put great emphasis on the willingness of the Christian to meet the challenge and give. He tells us that what is most important is that we first give ourselves to the Lord.

(2Cor. 8:5). Inherent in God’s response to a willing heart is the sufficiency that He provides… But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9 As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness,

Conclusion: In the final analysis, why should have Moses have said yes, without excuse? The answer is not found in Moses’ ability or inability, his experience or lack of experience. It is found in the person of One who is calling him.

  • Moses was a servant, God was the Master. Ex 3:15 Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’ It is not our prerogative as servants to decline work assigned by our Master, or to question His judgment in assigning it to us rather than some other servant. If what our Master needs in the work of evangelism is something we can only do badly at present, then the Master’s work is worth doing “badly.
  • Notice from this text what follows… God tells Moses, in the face of his objections and excuses, exactly what will transpire: Ex 3:16-22 – Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt; 17 and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”‘ 18 Then they will heed your voice; and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt; and you shall say to him, ‘The Lord God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God.’ 19 But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go. 21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. 22 But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
    • Pharaoh will not let you go
    • I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt.
    • After that he will let you go
    • Do not be afraid to leave this place when the time comes, because I will make it so you take the bounty of Egypt with you.
    • God will do all of that… have faith enough to go.

Gary Henry wrote… ” And if we hope ever to get past the point of being bunglers in the things of the Lord, we had better do the best job we can of bungling right now — rather than doing nothing at all. If we wish greater opportunities for service tomorrow, we have no choice but to do our utmost with the little ones we have today. Jesus said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Lk. 16:10).

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