Step Up To The Plate When You Think You Can't

Sermon Summary

This message deals with two objections that are given when people don't step up to the plate: I'm not good enough, and I'm not talented enough. By looking at the example of Paul the Apostle and his story of redemption, we discover that being accepted or chosen by God does not depend on our righteousness, but on the righteousness of Jesus and His willingness to die on the cross so He could cover us with His righteousness. We also find that God will use our gifts and talents, but doesn't choose us based on those things. He is more concerned with our availability than our ability. He has chosen to save anyone who will accept His offer of salvation and He will use anyone who is willing to step up to the plate and serve God!

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. When we feel we're not good enough or talented enough we are prone to sit in the dugout, or on the sidelines. This certainly happens when it comes to our service to God, but also applies to other areas of our lives. Ever felt this way and why?

2. What difference does it make in our lives when we realize that our acceptance by God does not depend on our goodness, but on God's offer of forgiveness, and His willingness to cover us with His righteousness. He will help us become more of what He created us to be! Read Paul's testimony to this effect and discuss how it applies to your life.

1 Tim 1:12  I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.
1 Tim 1:13  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
1 Tim 1:14  The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
1 Tim 1:15  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.
1 Tim 1:16  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
1 Tim 1:17  Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

3. We are so hesitant to step up to the plate and serve God because we sometimes don't think we have the ability or the talent to accomplish anything for God. However, God's Word tells us if we are willing and available to serve, He will provide us with the knowledge, the strength and the ability to do whatever He calls us to do. Read the following passage and share an example of how God has worked in your life despite your weaknesses or inabilities.

2 Pet 1:3  His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
2 Pet 1:4  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

4. Paul was so excited about his new life in Christ, but he was also honest about his struggles with the old nature. Do you ever face this battle and how do you overcome? Just a note: Next week's sermon will cover this topic in depth.

Rom 7:22  For in my inner being I delight in God's law;
Rom 7:23  but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
Rom 7:24  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Rom 7:25a  Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!...

Full Sermon Notes

Step Up To The Plate When You Think You Can't

"Oh how I need Your grace, More than my words can say
In all my weakness You are my confidence!"

Today's message is all about this. Step up to the plate when you think you can't! Why? Because with His Grace and With His Strength, you can!! Amen? Let's pray...

"Father God I thank You that even though I don't deserve Your grace I have it, and when I can't You can! You are so amazing and so wonderful! So much in this life that is hard, tough, confusing, sad, even tragic at times, but we can hold on to Your hand and trust Your heart through it all. We can step up to the plate because of who You are and the fact You promised to be with us, to work in and through us, and to never leave us! Today we ask You to give us Your peace, Your comfort, but also Your inspiration and motivation to overcome our fears and to step up to the plate and serve You with all we have! It's a walk of faith, but I'm so glad my faith in You is not displaced!
I humbly ask You to hide me behind the cross so that people will hear from You and See You. Thank You for teaching us this morning through Your awesome written word we find in Holy Scripture. I love you Jesus, and it's in Your Precious Name I pray! Amen."

Last week we talked about stepping up to the plate even when you've struck out! All of us in this room have had some kind of strikeout or failure in life. As a result of those things we sometimes hesitate to step back up to the plate. We know from the example of Peter, who denied even knowing Jesus three times, which is equivalent to a strikeout, we know that Jesus didn't kick him off the team! We know that Jesus forgave him and let him bat again. We also know that he was the guy who preached to the same crowd who days earlier had screamed for the crucifixion of Jesus. He stood boldly and confronted those people with the fact they had crucified the Son of God! He hit a home run and around three thousand people accepted Jesus as their Savior!

But even with that amazing example of God's willingness to use us even though we've struck out before, we still are at times hesitant to step up to the plate and serve God with our lives. Why is this? Well there are many reasons, but I think one of the main reasons is we just don't think we can! There are two main components to this negative thinking. Here they are...

I'm not good enough!

I'm not talented enough!

Well, God's Word has answers for both of these objections. There was another guy in the Bible, and we've talked about him before, Paul the Apostle, who was previously known as Saul of Tarsus. He had done some terrible things in the past and even done them in the name of God! He had persecuted Christians and watched as they died for their faith. He was confronted by the Lord on the road to Damascus as he was on his way to arrest more followers of Christ! Let's just read the story, it's a really, really good story…Acts 9

Acts 9:1-16 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest
and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way,
whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
“Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.
Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.
For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered.
The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying.
In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.
And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name  
before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

In other words, God was saying to Ananias, "Yes I know who he is and what he has done, but chosen him to take the good news of My Son Jesus to the Gentiles, their kings and the people of Israel!"
God had His reasons for choosing Paul, and it wasn't because Paul was such a righteous man.
Let's see what happens next...

Acts 9:17-31 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.
At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call
on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”
Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him,
but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him.
But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.
When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had
spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.
He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.
When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.
Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace.  
It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.

If there was ever someone who had good grounds to argue with God over being a chosen instrument. Can you imagine the conversations Paul had with God…"Wait, God You can't chose me, I'm a violent man, I've persecuted others! I'm mean! And preach? You've got to be kidding! Oh, I know the letter of the law, but this relationship with God thing, that's something I don't know! Besides, I'm still struggling with so many things. I'm on a roller coaster spiritually. I don't think I'm a good fit for your team. I'll probably just strikeout!"

And talk about a roller coaster! You'll see one in Romans 7:14-25!
This is the "I'm not good enough" argument for not stepping up to the plate!"

I'm not good enough!

Romans 7:14-25 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.
And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.
As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.
For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.
Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.
For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;
but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind
and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!....

Who is the only one who can rescue you from this body of death, from the sin nature, from the power of the flesh? Jesus Christ our Lord! He's the only one who can save us because He's the only one who ever lived a perfect life, and He's the one who gave that life up so we could be cleansed, made new, made alive, set free, unchained, unbound, and healed from the terrible wounds of sin!

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

So the argument, "I'm not good enough to step up to the plate" doesn't hold water because it's not about your righteousness, your goodness, your amazingness, your awesomeness, or your giftedness, your talent, your aptitude, or your expertise! When Paul lived by the letter of the law, before he met Jesus, he thought it was about how good he was and that he needed to earn his way to heaven.

But listen to what he said about this later...

Philippians 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,
for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,
but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

"Okay, okay, I get it, I'm not good enough, but Jesus gives me His mercy, His forgiveness and His righteousness! But it's not just that I'm not good enough, I'm not talented enough!"  

I'm not talented enough!

Did you know that God doesn't call people to step up to the plate because they are super talented? Oh, to be sure, God will use the gifts He gave you when He made you, but He calls people to step up to the plate who are willing to step up to the plate. People who are willing to serve Him by serving others! People who care about somebody other than themselves!

If you don't think you have any talents or gifts or abilities, let me say this: You do, you just haven't discovered them, because I know God has gifted each and everyone in this room. And if you ever face a situation that requires something you're not gifted to do, God may just give you a brand new gift! But the point is this: God is not looking at your abilities He's looking at your availability! And God has the ability to see things you can't see. He knows your heart better than you know your own heart. He knew Paul's wicked religious zeal to persecute was based on lies and traditions he had been taught and that he would change once he saw the truth! God knew Paul's struggles, but he knew Paul wanted to do the right thing. In fact Paul's testimony bears this out. It is one of the most powerful testimonies ever given! It's our text today and it's Paul writing to his young apprentice, Timothy. If this doesn't encourage you to have hope, I don't know what will. Listen, Paul said...

1 Timothy 1:12-17 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man,
I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited
patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Did you hear the part about God choosing Paul because he graduated top of his class? Or the part about Paul being chosen because he had amazing leadership qualities? Did you hear the part about Paul being such a fine example of godly manhood, that he was chosen? Nope, none of the above. He was chosen in spite of all of the negative things, and actually because of some of the negative things! "What, because of some of the negative things?" Yes!!! Listen again...

1 Timothy 1:15-16 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners —of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

Wow, I think that must be why God chose me!! Paul said, "I was chosen because I really tried the patience of God, but He used me to show the world that His patience is unlimited." Yep that's me!! In other words, God loves us so much He is patient with us and waits for us to come to Him and to trust Him and to call on Him. He does this so we can be an example to others that He's waiting on them as well! There are people out there this morning who may be thinking I'm too far gone, but God has chosen to save some of the worst sinners on this planet, as an example of His love and patience and that He's waiting to save you, and He has already picked you to be on His team, but He's waiting on your reply!

Remember, you can't say I'm not good enough, because being good enough is not a prerequisite!  God is willing to pay your sin debt in full with the precious Blood of Christ, but you've got to be willing to humble yourself and accept that payment on your behalf. And don't think you've got to be super talented, it's your willingness to step up to the plate that matters, and God will help you with the rest!

Now there's some of you sitting in this room and your thinking "well I'm glad the preacher's talking to people who are thinking about accepting Jesus. He's not talking to me!" There's so many people who have accepted Jesus as their Savior, but who haven't stepped up to the plate to serve God. They're waiting until they're good enough. That'll never happen. Coming to Jesus doesn't depend on your own goodness and serving Jesus doesn't depend on your own goodness! I don't stand up here on Sundays because I'm good enough, I stand up here because of the amazing grace of God which I depend upon every single day of my life. And it's sure not talent that places me here! If you haven't stepped up to the plate to serve your Savior because you think your not talented enough, let me destroy that excuse right now…Get ready, hold on to your seats, this is going to hit hard…Paul said this in Philippians 4:13

Philippians 4:13 "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

The writer of Hebrews put it this way in Hebrews 13:20-21

Hebrews 13:20-21 "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead  
our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him,
through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."

 And Peter, who stepped back up to the plate after his strike out said this in 2 Peter 1:3-4

2 Peter 1:3-4 "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge
of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may  
participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

And back in Peter's first letter, he wrote...

1 Peter 4:10-11 Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.
If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides,
so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

So what are you waiting for? Step up to the plate and see what God will do in and through your life! Let's Pray!!