PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
I want to speak to you on the subject, “God’s Appointed Time.” It deals with God’s divinely calendared events and our duty to recognize them and adjust our lives to them. I will deal with this from the perspective of the Christmas story. Let’s read our text:
Everyone knows what it’s like to be late. It can be embarrassing, annoying, or even costly when we are late for appointments—especially as it relates to work or paying bills. Despite the negatives associated with tardiness, it’s a constant battle in America’s time-conscious culture.
(Illustration) There are some nations where being late is the rule of the day. Some years ago, I preached an overseas Convention. The first night, I arrived about fifteen minutes early and virtually no one was in the sanctuary! At fifteen minutes past starting time a scant few worshipers had gathered. But an hour later, the house was packed and people were looking in through the windows.
(Humor) While it’s not that way in all cultures, I’ve heard many Christians incorporate lateness as part of their theology. They believe in justification, regeneration, and procrastination! The reason Scripture says, “no man knows the day or hour of Christ’s return” is because God knew revealing the time of his Second Coming would cause most Christians to be late for his Appearing, so the Bible just says, “Be ready”!
(Example) We learn this Doctrine of Procrastination early in life: as kids, we learned to complete our household chores just before dad got home. We learned to quit annoying mamma just before she grabbed the paddle. When I was in college, I didn’t know one colleague that completed a Term Paper until just before the deadline. It was always the last week, last day, and last hour of shuffling papers that produced the document.
We all know the importance, as well as the pressure, of working toward deadlines. Timing can work for us or against us. As the cliché goes, “Timing is everything.” It’s wonderful when circumstances coalesce favorably at just the right time, but it’s disheartening when things seem to happen at the wrong time.
What’s really aggravating is when we, through our own negligence, miss an opportune moment. A golden opportunity presents itself but we somehow blow it. But we don’t have to live this way. Listen to the words of Solomon in Proverbs 2:6—11.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (7) He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, (8) for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. (9) Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. (10) For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. (11) Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.
Those that live by this wisdom of Proverbs will safeguard God’s “Now!” appointments! We can know his timing and appointed seasons for us.
That’s why we should live as the Old Testament men of Issachar. If you have been around Bible preaching and teaching for any length of time you’ve heard that expression “the sons of Issachar.” What’s unique about this sagacious group of people is their insightful discernment during Israel’s political transition.
God had installed Saul as Israel’s first king. But it wasn’t long thereafter that Saul grievously disappointed the Lord and he had to replace Saul. God used the prophet Samuel to show that God had rejected Saul’s leadership and had anointed David as king. But not all Israel accepted this plan. And some didn’t just politely object to God’s intention they totally rejected it. However, there was a group of people that did get it! These are the ones 1 Chronicles 12:32 describes as “the men of Issachar . . . [that] understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” These people discerned that David was God’s man and rallied to his side. And even through political upheaval they stood firmly with David, the one God described as being “after his own heart.”
It’s vital to live with the discernment that understands God’s current dealings with your life! To know whether He’s saying, “Go with the flow,” or, “Cut against the tide.” To know whether He’s saying, “Stop and relax,” or, “Forge ahead with courage.”
If there’s one thing that’s certain about each individual here today it’s this: God is active in your life! In some way, he is dealing with you:
It could be that he is telling you to surrender a harmful habit.
He may be trying to get you to deal with what Hebrews calls “the sin that so easily besets you.” And if it is an obvious sin, it could be a stumbling block that prevents an onlooker from becoming a Christian.
Then again, God could be challenging you to stretch your faith and broaden the horizon on your life. He may be telling you to launch out into the deep.
Whatever it is, whether the Lord is trying to prevent you from doing something or get you to accept something, God wants you to surrender to his Lordship! He wants you to say, “Heavenly Father, your will be done”!
(Illustration) Years ago a homeless boy wandered into Church for the first time. Before he entered the sanctuary he stopped by the bulletin board to check out the pictures and posters. About that time an usher approached him and the boy said: “Who are these guys in uniform?” The usher replied: “These are our boys that died in the service.” With the look of terror, the kid said: “Was it the morning service or the evening service?”
He misunderstood the message, didn’t he? And he misunderstood it even though it was obvious to everyone else. Did you know we can misinterpret God’s will and plans just as easily? That is why it is necessary to “walk in the Spirit”—not just attend church, sing the choruses, or listen to sermons—we have to “walk in the Spirit.” The Bible says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1CO 2:14, NIV).
If merely being “religious” could discern the counsel of God, most people would be filled with spiritual knowledge because Buddhists, Muslims, Confucius’, Hindus, Catholics, and Christians are “religious.” But religiosity cannot decipher God’s plan. It takes a relationship with the Lord to discern his will and ways.
Let me illustrate this: One primary duty God assigned to the Hebrew nation involved assimilating, studying, knowing, and teaching the Holy Scriptures. But when Jesus appeared, the entire Hebrew religious community overlooked his birthdate. Even though they had full access to the OT prophecies! But with all these facts available to the Hebrew rabbis, only a handful of Spirit-led Believers discovered his appearing. The rest of Israel missed the time of his coming.
I don’t know about you, but that should stir godly fear within us. To think that the very people that should have discerned didn’t discern! However, while it should create godly fear, it shouldn’t create any doubt that God knows exactly how to communicate his plan to you! The biggest obstacle involves our willingness to listen.
I want you to observe how God conveyed the message of Christ’s birth to those willing to listen in the First Century. It is all right here in the Christmas story:
For Mary, a heavenly messenger told her that she would experience the Spirit of God overshadowing her and implanting the life of the Christ-child within her. I can’t imagine what Mary experienced when the power of the Highest came upon her, but it must’ve been absolutely overwhelming! And it was enough. She knew something happened.
For Joseph, Mary’s fiancé, he accepted the angel’s testimony that Mary’s pregnancy was of God.
Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, identified the Christ-child, at the rejoicing of John the Baptist from within her womb.
The Shepherds discovered and worshiped Jesus once they followed the angelic instructions from the sky.
And what about the Wise Men? They discovered and worshiped Jesus after following his star.
And then there was the priest and prophet, Simeon and Anna. They discovered Jesus when his parents dedicated him at the Temple. But his parents didn’t say, “This is Emmanuel, the Son of God. Don’t you see?” Simeon and Anna walked with God and spent time praying. Consequently, their hearts instantly bore witness that baby Jesus was the Lord, Emmanuel.
You see, each of these people had a unique experience in discovering the plan of God. And this is something we should never forget: God knows just how to convey his purposes to you. In fact, it is God’s very responsibility: he said the duty of the Holy Spirit is to convict and convince! God knows how to convince you of his dealings and purposes.
The message of Christmas illustrates the importance of recognizing God’s dealings with us. “When the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son.” There was one time, and one time only, when things were perfectly aligned for Christ’s birth. And that’s important, because he continues to work according to a divine schedule. The question is, are you aware of what God is doing in your life?
There are twenty-two occurrences of the phrase: “the appointed time” in the Bible. That’s how important ‘appointed times’ are to God:
There was an appointed time for Sarah—Abraham’s wife—to conceive her child of destiny.
There was an “appointed time” for Israel to celebrate its festivals.
Daniel 8:19 speaks of the great tribulation occurring at “the appointed time of the end.”
Jesus told the apostles his death awaited, “an appointed time.”
I love what Psalm 102:13 says: God will “have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come.”
And in Psalm 75:2 God distinctly says, “I choose the appointed time.” Isn’t it wonderful to know that God governs moments of importance!
If you live complacently and without seeking for wisdom and understanding, you will miss God’s timing! And there are occasions that we can never recapture a lost moment of destiny that God has for us. This is why Paul warned in Ephesians 5:14, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (15) Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise. (16) making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
Do you know what God is doing in your life today? He wants you to know. This Christmas, I trust that one present you receive from the tree of God’s Word is the gift of discernment. The gift of discerning a new season; a fresh start; or a better way.