by Charles C Elliott
In the space race of the 60’s, A Russian Cosmonaut went up into space and said… ”I see no God up here”… But an American astronaut went up into space and the American said …“I see God everywhere”… The difference was not the place or situation they were in, but it was the eyes of the beholder, that had changed.
On a cold winter day, during the holiday season, a little boy about six or seven was in front of a store window shivering in the cold. He had no shoes on his feet and his clothes were not much help from the cold. A young woman passing by saw the little boy and she reached down and took him by the hand and led him into the store. There she bought him new shoes and a complete set of warm clothing. They came back outside into the street and the woman said to the child, "Now you can go home and have a very happy holiday." The little boy looked up at her and asked, "are you God’s wife, Ma'am?" She smiled down at him and replied, "No son, I'm just one of His children." The little boy said, "I knew you had to be related to Him somehow."
John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. v2 The same was in the beginning with God. v3 All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. v4 In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. v5 The light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehends it not”.
The first chapter of John’s gospel says more than our minds can take in. There are a lot of ideas in this first chapter… too many for our minds to explore it’s depths without some extensive study and digging. At least, too many for one sermon such as this. But our focus today is, how John emphasizes that we can SEE God.
John lays it out plainly. “No one has ever seen God.” But he says it is the Son…who has made Him known. That’s Jesus, the person the gospel is all about. When you look at those first verses, of John, the theme of being able to see, is paramount to discovering it’s truth. John tells us that he was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’
Two of the disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.
John uses a couple of different words for seeing, and he uses these “seeing” words more often than any writer in the New Testament. In these few verses alone, look how many times he uses the idea of seeing! The gospel writer clearly says, “No one has ever seen God.” And then still in the opening part of this story, he tells how Jesus is walking by. Jesus, the Son of God. Will anyone notice him? And we read that John the Baptist sees Jesus. Now there were a lot of people who might have seen Jesus…seen what color hair he had, or how tall he was.
But it was only John who really SEES him. John had a revelation from God that this Jesus was the Lamb of God. He saw with his eyes, but more importantly, he saw with his heart…he understood who Jesus was. Often in the gospel, the use of the word “see” has this double meaning. It’s the same in English. I see something, but then suddenly, it’s as though a curtain opens and I really, truly SEE!!!! I suddenly comprehend a deeper meaning to what my eyes had been viewing. I see and then, I SEE!….. And the writer of this gospel is playing with that double meaning. He watches Jesus, and says, “Here is the Lamb of God.” It was because John saw God, that it moved two of his disciples to start following Jesus.
Being a disciple means you believe in someone, it means you live with them, you travel with them, you stick with them through thick and thin. Now Jesus saw a lot of people, there were crowds of people. But Jesus SEES them … he knows them, not as casual passers-by, but as people who are interested in truly following HIM.
And then he asks them a question, “What are you looking for?” These are the first recorded words of Jesus in John’s gospel. The first words of “God made flesh”, the first words out of His mouth in this gospel are “What are you looking for?”
You would think they might answer, “We are looking for the Lamb of God, the Son of God, the hope of Israel. Is that what you are?” It is true that later the next day, Andrew, excitedly goes to his brother Peter and says, “We have found the Messiah.”
But John’s gospel says their first question on this occasion, is “Where are you staying?” or “What is Your address?”,
You can imagine Jesus answering with a little smile on His face as He hears this question.. He doesn’t give them a ten point summary of why he is the Messiah, or what it means to be God, dwelling among men. He doesn’t in fact give them any answer. Instead he tells them to “come and see”, to find the answer for themselves.
And yes, they will see with their eyes the house where Jesus is staying, but they will see much more as the Holy Spirit opens their inner eye….and by the very next day, Andrew is beginning to see the bigger picture, and he is filled with a new dimension of good news excitement.
.He runs to see his brothers, and declares… “I have found the Messiah!” Jesus, the Son of God has come to dwell among mankind in human form!! Andrew thinks he has his answer, on the second day after meeting the Son of God. But it is three years later, as they have followed Jesus, as they have seen Him in the garden and seen Him cruely crucified on the cross and seen Him laid in a tomb, that they realize the depth of what it meant for Jesus to fully become one of us.
What are we looking for? We can become so focused on one tree that we miss the forest. Because what we are looking for, will determine what we see.
If you find yourself stuck in traffic; Don't despair. There are people in this world who have never had the privilege of driving.
If you have a bad day at work; Think of the person who has been out of work for years.
If you are overwhelmed by a relationship gone bad; Think of the person who has never known what it's like to be loved because they lived as slaves.
If you’re upset about all you have to put up with in life, think of those in third world countries who would give anything to trade places with you.
If your car breaks down, leaving you miles away from assistance, Think of the paraplegic who would love the opportunity to take that walk for help.
If you notice a new gray hair or that your hair is thinning in the mirror; Think of the cancer patient in chemo who wishes she had any hair at all to examine.
If you find yourself feeling your life is a waste, and you’re asking what is my purpose? Be thankful. There are those who didn't live long enough to get the opportunity.
If you ever find yourself as the victim of other people's bitterness, ignorance, smallness or bigotry, remember, things could be worse. You could be them!!!!
We as humans live in the valley of the shadow of death and Jesus chose to come from the realms of eternity, to walk in that valley too. Come and see. Come and see the miracle at the consummation of the gospels, which is that glorious realization of the power of God over death. The disciples saw the empty tomb, but it is only when they physically saw Jesus’ body again, that they truly SEE the empty tomb in the larger context and what that means for all of us, for all time.
Hear Jesus’ question to us all today, “What you are you looking for?” What is it that you think you want to see, because it is only the smallest part of the bigger thing which you will come to know, as you follow Messiah. It is a dimension of life that supersedes the valley of death. It is so dynamic that this life is transformed by it, the grave cannot hold it and death cannot stop it…Hallelujah!
The principle is, that you will only see what you are paying attention to. Important things can happen, and you won’t notice them if you are not looking for them. Jesus’ question, “What are you looking for?” is really important. It’s central. Because we must retrain ourselves to look for the right things, and not make lesser, and unimportant things the object of our focus.
God knows how to fit all the pieces of our puzzle together. What are we looking for? Is the job, just about getting a paycheck, or are we there to focus on more eternal things? Are we so busy providing for our family, that we fail to provide for our family the things that really matter?
Am I so caught up with my problems and challenges, that I fail to be sensitive to those around me, who are looking and searching in their own lives? Check, check, check. How many situations and circumstances were not what we expected, and how many places were not where we would rather be? But in those places and in our many circumstances God has plans which we see in part and yet it is only a part of that which make up the bigger plan.
The danger is that we will make what we see and feel, greater than what we don’t see in the moment. To know, that God is working among every terribly broken situation, and through every crisis. He made the puzzle and He certainly knows how to put it together!
As you go through it on your knees, and you need God to show up so badly, just know that He is there, all the time. He was showing you where He lived, and that His address was right here, among us. “Jesus was standing in the midst, in His risen power, and it should have been a time of worship, and a hallowed, sacred time, but because we were looking at the wrong things, we missed it when it walked right in front of us!
Week after week, month after month, people are standing on Holy ground, and lives are being changed, shaped, expanded, and re-directed by the faithfulness of God, and His witnesses in the dark, broken, hard and economically-depressed places. What is important is what we are looking for, because that is what we will see.
A group of children were told to write a letter to God… here are some of them…
Eugene wrote…. “Dear God, I never thought orange went with purple until I saw the sunset you made on Tuesday. That was really cool”!
Allison wrote… “Dear God, I read the Bible. So, what does "begat" mean? Nobody will tell me”.
Anita wrote…. “Dear God, Is it true that my father won't get in Heaven if he uses his football game words in the house”?
Norma wrote…. “Dear God, Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or did you get distracted like I do sometimes”?
Cindy wrote….. “Dear God, Instead of letting people die and having to make new ones, why don't You just keep the ones You already made?”
Brad wrote…. “Dear God, I’ll bet it is very hard for You to love everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it.
Joyce wrote…. “Dear God, Thank You for the baby brother, but if you’ll check, what I prayed for was a puppy”.
Satan wants to get us distracted so we miss what’s really happening. And when we miss the strategic play, he wants to make us miss the blessing. It’s easy to get distracted….and allow less important things to cause you to go down a detour.
It’s sometimes like finding Waldo….WHERE’S WALDO!!! Life is filled with distractions, but when our quest and our priority is to look for Jesus, to find Him wherever we go and whatever the situation, then we will begin to see Him all over the place. Jesus said “You will find me when you search for me with all your heart”. If I’m looking for other things, which may be fun things, feel good things, comforting things, or even important things that I really treasure, well, guess what, I might just miss the pearl of great price that is right under my nose. We can get caught up in looking for a nicer home, or a bigger bank account, or better job, and those things are not bad, but if we spend our time looking only for that, we can easily miss things that are WAAAAY more important!
Three men are traveling on a cruise ship, when they are approached by the Devil in an area where the sea is 1500 feet deep. The Devil proposes that if each man drops something into the sea and he can find it, he will own that man’s soul. If the Devil doesn’t find it, that man is off limits forever. The first man drops a pure, clear diamond, and immediately Satan finds it. The second man drops an expensive watch, and the Devil, finds it with no problem. The other man is praying for wisdom, when Jesus walks by and whispers something in his ear. The third man begins to loudly sing “It is well with my soul”, fills a bottle with water and pours it into the sea yelling, Try finding that!" -
So, what are we looking for right now at this place in our lives? John says “The word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth”. But truth be known, we can’t really know what that’s going to look like. They missed him in his day because He didn’t come like they thought He aught to come, He didn’t look like they thought He aught to look, He didn’t act like they thought He aught to act.
It would be great to be able to report to you that every situation will be dramatically turned around, the way we want it to be. That everyone will be thriving, successful and prosperous the way we want to see it! Are are looking to see the power of God working right in the middle of the messes we find ourselves in? To work through us in this city and this world. Jesus is working in our hearts, changing our families, by changing us, to see where He is, right in the midst of where we are. But that doesn’t always happen on our time frame, and it doesn’t always happen the way we want…
That’s because we are the clay, not the potter…and the clay must submit to the potter’s plan, and shape and design while his hand is on it. Oh, that we might know, how powerful and active our Lord is in all of our places, and that the kingdom of God is not dependent on any of it, but is ruling over it all. To see that the kingdom of God is dependent upon God, thank God for that, and not our own efforts.!
What are we looking for? I want my life to be a certain way, I want a certain amount of security, I want a certain kind of church, with certain amounts of friends and certain this and certain that. I want good health and safety for all I love. That’s what I’m looking for, and I try my very best to make sure I can find that. But instead, what we find, is that when life falls apart, when all the pieces break apart, when I can’t hold them together, when all we are looking for, disintegrates, it is precisely there….that Jesus is living, in the middle of the brokenness. And it is there that we need the potter’s hands to come rest upon us…..
We must keep our eyes peeled to see that Jesus is working in ways that our minds cannot take in. To see Jesus… in the doctor’s office where we get the bad news. Jesus with us when we get the (middle of the night) phone call saying there’s been an accident. Jesus in the funeral home. Jesus at divorce court. Jesus became flesh and dwelling right here among us. If we are looking for Jesus, we will always find Him. There is no power on earth or in the spiritual realms that can stop Jesus from dwelling with us, in every aspect of our lives together. Jesus enters into our lives, and He begins to change our destiny. What will that look like in our future? Come and see, that’s the invitation, Come and SEE, and you will know where I live!!!!
1 Samuel 17:29 we find a statement which is formed as a question from the lips of David. As David is processing in his own mind and to his brothers, why someone should take the risk of going against Goliath, when the entire army of Israel was cowering from the verbal assaults of this giant, he looked at something bigger than Goliath and said, “Is there not a cause?” That’s why we’re here today. It’s why we’re seeking to move forward in faith: “Is there not a cause?”
If you’ve met some giants lately, you know that they make you feel small and weak. They can scare you. They definitely will intimidate you. Giants continually keep the people of God from seeing God, so they miss His will and best. They either limit them, hinder them, or totally prevent them. Your special bulletin of the day is…..(There will always be giants), either personally or corporately as believers, whoever attempts anything for God. So we have a choice. We can live by fear because “there are giants” or we can live by faith and declare (Is there not a cause)?
David viewing things from God’s perspective, says (“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine?”). Saul had confidence in his armor, as long as David was the guy wearing it, but David had confidence in his God. Saul was concerned about his own image but David was concerned with the honor of God .
From David the giant killer we learn how to take on the giants in life. To fell the giants of life, we need a spiritual perspective. Goliath challenged Israel to a representative battle—their champion against him. The loser’s people would become the slaves of the winner’s people. It’s still true today, it’s never just about us….it’s about the people we love and those we have influence with.
David has a spiritual perspective! Saul and the armies of Israel were afraid because they saw it as a conflict of their puny muscle against Goliath’s mighty muscle, their little weapons against Goliath’s impressive weapons, their experience in warfare against Goliath’s experience. David had a biblical, spiritual perspective on the problem.
If you want to slay a Goliath, you must begin by seeing it as God sees it and know that God is in it with you.. It’s the starting point for victory. Notice two things about David’s faith, the kind of faith we need…We need a faith rooted in personal experience. This wasn’t David’s first outing in the school of faith. Though a teenager, he’d proved God in his own experience. He had seen that God was working through him, in every challenge and every test.
David’s faith was in the Lord, and he also had no illusions about what was really going on here… and while he was no match for Goliath, when that giant took on God, he got in over his head. Do you really believe that your God is greater than the thing you’re facing, and that He knows the best outcome possible for yourself and everyone involved? When God is in His rightful place, all the giants which we face in life will shrink down to their proper size.
Peter understood this when he said, in 1Peter 1:7 “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ”.
Throughout the pages of Scripture, whether it’s David taking on Goliath or Abraham leaving everything to follow God, Noah building the ark, when the whole world is against him, Moses leading the Israelites across the desert, Nehemiah building the walls of Jerusalem, or the disciples leaving everything behind as they follow Jesus, the story of the people of God is consistently one of facing difficult choices, between the risk and trust, between fear or faith.
A giant is any situation in our path which blocks the way and keeps us from walking with the Lord in the way He wants us to go. It can be a person who opposes us or it might be a combination of circumstances which when taken together block us from doing what God wants done.
For most of us, the greatest giants are the ones we face on the inside, not the outside. Usually those inner giants defeat us much faster than any giant we face on the outside. It’s in the mind where the battle must be fought and won. In that sense, many of us face a giant right now. It may be an impossible situation at work or home. It may be a financial difficulty or a broken relationship. It may be a task before you that you know you can’t handle. It may be a dream that seems unreachable. Giants want to fill up our vision, until we can see nothing else but the problem, or the challenge before us.
Giants come into our lives to turn a novice Christian, into a veteran believer. As long as we run when the giant rears his ugly head, we’ll have to face him tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. He won’t go away until we stand up and fight him. Goliath never leaves on his own. The bible says that Goliath came back twice a day for 40 days until David finally went down to face him in the valley.
Your giants are the same way. They’ll never leave on their own. Until you stand and fight in Jesus’ name, until then, they win every time. David needed Goliath. He didn’t realize it, of course. In the same way we need giants because we’ll never become all that God wants us to be without them. Though today you are praying to be delivered from them, God intends to use the struggle you face to take you from Abram (father) to Abraham (father of nations0… from Jacob (the deceiver) to Israel (Prince of God)…from David the shepherd, to David the King!
A minister once carried a secret burden of past sin deep in his heart. It was the personal giant he had battled for years. At a low time in his life, he had committed a sin during his Bible school training that he had never told anyone. Even though he had repented, he still suffered remorse over the incident without any sense of having God's forgiveness about it. There was a woman in his church who claimed to have visions in which Jesus Christ spoke to her. The minister, was skeptical of her claims, and he asked her, "The next time you speak to the Lord, would you please ask Him what did your pastor do while he was in Bible school that still plagues him to this day." The woman kindly agreed, and the next Sunday, the minister asked, "Did the Lord visit you?" She said, "Yes." "And did you ask Him about the thing I struggle with?" "Yes, I asked Him," she replied. "Well, what did He say?"…."He said, 'I don't remember.”
John 1:29 “The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”!
Everyone else saw the carpenter, Mary’s son, the Nazarene. But John saw Him for who He truly was. As we move through our days, and face our giants, may we see Him, in the midst of it all, moving and working to glorify God in our lives, making sense of what doesn’t make sense, turning our upside world, right side up again, giving us peace in our turmoil, and then make that place, a special place of worship!!!