“Not Flashy, But Faithful” (Luke 1:8-11 sermon)

You’d have to be a pretty avid football fan to know the name of Bryce Paup. Bryce Paup was a linebacker for the Green Bay Packers back in the early 1990’s. Most everybody knows of Brett Favre, the Green Bay Quarterback, or even Reggie White, who terrified quarterbacks with his sacks. But very few know of Bryce Paup — although he was a key defensive player for Green Bay then, and he was named to the Pro Bowl. Many don’t recognize his name, yet he was so faithful in what he did. He coach said of him: “He’s not flashy. He doesn’t say a word. He just brings his lunch pail and gets the job done. There’s never been a snap where you could say Bryce was not giving 100%.” Bryce Paup was not “flashy,” but he was faithful.  (After They Were Packers, by Jerry Poling, p. 117)

That is the lesson for many of us this morning from the story of Zacharias in Luke 1. When I started reading Luke in my own morning Bible readings the other day, this set of verses just jumped off the page at me:

“Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. 11 And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense.”

What really struck me as a I read this, was that the amazing visitation from God that happened to Zacharias — the angel appearing, and the miracles that took place, happened “while he was performing his priestly service.” Zacharias didn’t set out to do something “spectacular” that day, but in the course of just faithfully performing the “normal” task the Lord set before him, God did something very big indeed. And He can do the same thing with us, too.

 

I. GOD DID AMAZING THINGS AS ZACHARIAS WAS FAITHFUL IN HIS “ROUTINE” ASSIGNMENT.

Verse 8 says, “Now it happened that WHILE HE WAS PERFORMING HIS PRIESTLY SERVICE BEFORE GOD in the appointed order of his division …”.  When did God speak? When did God work, and do all these miraculous things that He did? It was while Zacharias was busy doing the “routine” assignment that God had given him to do.

Bible historians tell us that the priests were divided up into 24 divisions, and each would take their turn with their duties at the Temple. Poole says: “One part of their work was to burn incense morning and evening. It seems this was that part of the priestly office which Zacharias was by lot to exercise.”  So this was indeed a special thing that Zacharias was doing in the Temple: burning incense in the presence of the Lord — a great privilege — but there’s another sense in which it was just “his turn” at the priestly ministry. It was the “normal routine.” He was just being faithful to “take his turn” at the incense in the Temple that day, when God gave him this revelation that would change his life, and determine the course of history, and our salvation. 

Verse 11 tells us that as Zacharias went about his given assignment in the Temple, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him.” The angel told him that God had heard his prayer, and that he and his wife Elizabeth, who had been childless and were now pretty old, were going to have a child. And not just “a” child, but THE child we saw last week that God promised in Malachi 3, who would be the Messenger who would go before the Messiah, to prepare the way for him. This was an amazing thing! There are not many greater miracles, or more spectacular revelations in scripture, than what we find given to Zacharias here in Luke 1. But one thing we need to remember is that all of this unfolded before him, AS he was just being faithful in the routine assignment that God had place before him. Zacharias did not know that some “great revelation” was coming to him that day; he was just being faithful — and in the course of being faithful to what God had given him, the Lord did great and miraculous things through him.  

So there is a great lesson for us here today in this:

II. GOD STILL USES PEOPLE WHO ARE FAITHFUL IN THE ROUTINE ASSIGNMENTS HE GIVES THEM.

Just like in the case of Zacharias, think about how many times in scripture God blessed people who were just being faithful in their “regular” duties:

— I think of Anna. The second chapter of Luke tells us she was able to see the baby Jesus in the Temple after He was born.  But she didn’t “just happen” to be in the Temple that day. Verse 37 says Anna had served “night and day with fastings and prayers” — so she was always just faithfully there; and in the course of her normal, faithful duties, one day she saw the Lord Jesus Himself. Amazing things happened, as she was faithful in her normal routine. 

— Acts 2 describes how on the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit fell upon the whole church at Jerusalem, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and Peter preached a sermon and 3000 people were saved. But here’s the thing that some of us may not have considered before:  that group of Jesus’ disciples did not KNOW that that this meeting would be the famous “Day of Pentecost” when all this would happen. THEY WERE JUST AT THEIR REGULAR PRAYER MEETING THEY HAD BEEN HAVING EVER SINCE JESUS LEFT — and in the course of their regular, faithful attendance in prayer, God did something great and miraculous with them!  

— Revelation tells us that John was just “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” — just being faithful with his regular Sunday worship — when Jesus appeared to him and gave him the great Revelation that is the last Book of our Bible!

And we could go on and on with more examples. We see repeatedly that when God’s people are faithful in our “ordinary,” “routine” assignments, God blesses and uses that in an “extra-ordinary” way.   Some of the greatest things that happen in our world, happen through people who are not doing anything “flashy;” they are just being faithful to their daily, routine work. And God uses that faithfulness in a great way. 

Consider, for example, the food supply chain here in America. In the past weeks of this COVID-19 crisis, we haven’t taken that for granted like we have most of our lives, have we?  I mean, for all of our adult lives, most of us have been able to walk into a store, almost any time of the day or night, and buy anything we want to eat. That is an amazing privilege — and one that we have lost these past several weeks! A couple days after we got back from our mission trip to Mexico, I walked into the HEB by our house — and there was NO MEAT; there was no bread; no toilet paper. All of the sudden, it wasn’t “What do I want to buy?”, but “what IS there to buy?!” I thought, “My goodness, what country am I in?” This isn’t the America I left just a few days ago!  But that food we are so used to having, doesn’t just “appear” by some “great miracle.” It depends on a lot of people who are very faithful to do their daily tasks: the farmer, who shows up every season, faithfully planting his seeds; the laborer who does his job every day, harvesting the fruit and vegetables; the truck driver who shows up every day to deliver the food to our stores, the grocery clerk who just “does his job” keeping the shelves stocked and selling us the food. What you might call the “miracle” of the abundant American food chain system — that feeds not only our own country, but much of the WORLD — is really no “miracle” at all — it’s God using a lot of people who just show up every day and faithfully do what He has assigned them to do.  And He feeds the world through that day-by-day faithfulness to the routine task. It’s not “flashy” but FAITHFUL — and it keeps us fed!

And on the other hand, some of the greatest tragedies that have happened in our world, came about when people were NOT faithful in their “routine” job. It might have seemed like just some “little,” inconsequential thing, but the neglect of it had a horrific effect:

Like in July of 1988, oil workers on the Piper Bravo Oil Rig in the North Sea were evacuated after an explosion killed 167 of the 226 men working on the rig. The tragedy led to over 1.7 billion dollars in losses. What happened? In short, a safety inspector forgot to replace a little valve after a routine check. Such a small, “routine” thing — and yet it had such enormous consequences. Many of us have jobs like that: in our plants, and in our schools, and in our churches — where the “little” things that we do, have enormous consequences. That’s why we’ve got to take the “little,” “routine,” daily assignments that God gives us, seriously! 

Zechariah 4:10 talks about not despising “the day of small things.” The things that God calls us to do, are often not “flashy” or seemingly very important, but they ARE important; they add up. And God will bless and use them if we’ll be faithful to just do whatever task He sets before us.

III. SO THE APPLICATION FOR TODAY’S LESSON TODAY IS: BE FAITHFUL IN WHATEVER ASSIGNMENT GOD SETS BEFORE YOU in this time — even if you think of it as just a “little” thing. What God gives you to do may not be “flashy,” it may seem very “routine” or even “mundane,” but God can bless and use you in a great way if you will be faithful to just do what He’s set in front of you. 

NOW SOMEONE MAY SAY, BUT HOW CAN I BE FAITHFUL IN THIS CRISIS? I can’t even go to church these days! The answer is: be faithful in whatever you CAN be faithful in!  Even if it seems small and inconsequential.  You will never be judged by God for things you cannot do. What you will be judged by Him for, are the things you CAN do. So what can you do? Be faithful in whatever “little” things God sets before you to do in this crisis. Let me suggest what a few of those things might be: 

1. For all of us, that means being faithful to walk with God each day in His WORD. Stick to your daily Bible reading. What we often think of as that “mundane” daily Bible reading can lead to GOLD — IF you’ll take the time to mine it!  (I’ll be honest, when I came to the Book of Luke in my daily Bible reading, I thought, I can’t wait to get past Chapter 1, because it has all that boring genealogy stuff … but I have gotten SO much out of Luke 1 this week — not only this sermon but SO much more.  “There’s gold in them thar’ hills” for you too — God will speak to you in His word about things that will change your life — but you know, when you mine gold, you don’t just “show up” one day and get a bunch of gold. You have to do the hard, daily work of mining, or panning, and after a lot of mundane work, you get the gold. It’s that way with God’s word too. God will bless you with “golden things” in His word, IF you’ll be faithful to work at it every day. Most days it’s not “flashy;” it’s not “fire falling from heaven”; but it is THE single most important thing you can do every day, and if you will be faithful in that “routine assignment”, God will speak to your life in amazing ways. 

2. Be faithful to PRAY. Prayer can be one of the hardest things to “stick with” in the whole Christian life. If we’re honest, most of us will admit that there are days when our prayer can seem routine, or even “mundane” — but God WILL use the prayers of His people in great ways, IF we will be faithful to keep at it. We see that in this passage:

— In :13 the angel tells Zacharias: “Your PETITION has been heard” — so Zacharias had been faithfully praying, in his own “routine” prayer time, undoubtedly for many years — and this “spectacular” answer, was the result of all of those (what must have seemed to HIM like) “mundane” prayers. DON’T GIVE UP on your “routine” prayers. God will use them!

— It is notable also that :10 says that when Zacharias went into the Temple, that all the people were outside praying. Again we see: God works when people are faithful to pray. It would have been easy for them to say things like, “Do we have to pray the whole time he’s in there?” — but little did they know, while they were praying what might have seemed to them like “mundane,” “routine” prayers, that God was at that very moment performing a miracle!  WE NEVER KNOW WHEN A SIMILAR MIRACLE MAY BE TAKING PLACE THROUGH OUR “MUNDANE” PRAYERS!  Prayer is not always “flashy,” but if you are faithful in it every day, God will hear and use it. 

3. Church members, another “little” thing you can be faithful at during this time is your GIVING. There are so many things we are just NOT able to do in this shutdown: we can’t give each other those hugs we miss; we can’t hold hands and sing; we can’t visit the nursing homes — but one thing we CAN be faithful to do is give. We can still mail our offerings to the church; we can get on the same website we are watching this Live Stream video on, and click “Give Online” at the top. There are still ways for us to give just like we always do. First Baptist Angleton members, let me just address you right now as your pastor, you have been so faithful in your giving this month; thank you. Because of that, we don’t have to worry about whether we can pay our staff, or send money to our missionaries, or keep building that new building!  Because of your faithful giving, I did not have to think twice about helping one of our church families who had a huge emergency in the tornado this week. I could say immediately: “let’s put them in a hotel.” I could say: “Let’s get those kids some shoes.” I had the freedom to immediately help them — because you have been faithful in your regular giving, and we had the money to do it.  To many of us, giving our “regular tithe” may just seem “routine” or “mundane” — but add together what everyone’s doing and we can do some amazing things together: we can support a missionary; we can build a new building; we can care for people.  Our giving is not “flashy,” but if we’re just FAITHFUL in it, it makes all that that happen.   

4. Watch also for what look like “little” opportunities God gives you to minister to people around you. Of course our visitation is limited right now, but we can call and text; as pastor I’ve been calling through our church directory, trying to check on people. I know many of our Sunday School teachers and deacons are doing the same thing. Connect with your people through email, or text, or phone calls; however you can. Sometimes just a little call, or text, can mean so much. It’s not “flashy,” but just faithful ministry that can make a big difference to people, keep us connected, and make our church truly a church family.

5. With every crisis, there are always “open doors” to share your faith —  in just little daily opportunities that open up before you. Watch for those opportunities God gives you, and be faithful to go through the door when He opens one for you. Share just a little word about your church family, or about the Lord, with someone you come within 6 feet of in the Walmart, or at the drug store or grocery store.  We may have fewer opportunities than we’ve had before — or our opportunities may take different forms — maybe now it will be sharing our church video or sharing a personal testimony on Facebook — but God will always give us opportunities to share. Watch for them, and be faithful to share when He opens the door for you. He can use just a “little” word, sometimes, in BIG ways!

6. Be faithful to minister to your own FAMILY in this time.

Your children are THE single most important responsibility God has given you as a parent. And YOU are the biggest influence on their life. Not me, not Scott, not their teacher at school, or anyone else. YOU are! So USE this crisis to spend some quality time with your child. God may be saying to some of us: “You’ve wanted more family time?”  (with your kids — or with your spouse as well)  Well here it is!” So don’t squander it; USE it! Be faithful in this “little thing;” it may not be “flashy,” but it could be that you’ll look back in years to come and see how God drew you closer together in your marriage and family, and did some lasting things in your lives, through this time. 

7. And then finally, when all of this is over, determine that when you get back to church, you are going to be faithful to “take your turn” in whatever service opportunity God gives you. That’s what Zacharias was doing here; he was just “taking his turn” in the Temple — and look what God did! 

God uses people who will “take their turn”, and He will use YOU too. There are so many places in the church where we need people to “take a turn” — in the nursery;  on the security team; on bereavement meals … We’ve seen how important our video ministry is during this time; and we need more people to get involved in it when we get back, to learn how to run cameras and video and more. When we move into our new building we’re going to have new equipment, and we’ll need more volunteers who can “take a turn” with what has become a vital and growing ministry in our church. 

We when start having services again together, we may also need some kind of “clean team”: to disinfect door handles and light switches, and give out masks and hand sanitizer before and after services. It’s not a “flashy” thing — but if we have people who will faithfully do it, maybe we can start meeting again soon — so this “little” thing, can be kind of a “big deal.”

God will USE our faithfulness in the church, when we are willing to “take a turn.” Most of these things I’ve talked about today are not “flashy” assignments — but neither was what Zacharias was doing: he was just lighting the daily incense in the Temple; just a “routine” thing — but if we’ll be faithful like him to “take our turn” in the “routine” things, God can do some spectacular things through us. So let’s get in the mindset right now that we’ll be ready to “take a turn” in some of our church ministries when we get back— and if they ever seem “routine” to us, let’s remember that God may use our faithful, “routine” ministry, in an extraordinary way.   

CONCLUSION:

THE BOTTOM LINE of our lesson today is that God uses faithful people. He uses people who aren’t necessarily “flashy” or “spectacular,” but who will just be faithful to do the “little,” “routine” things He has set before them to do. 

Now, we need to clarify: we are NOT saved by our own faithfulness to God. None of us are that faithful. We all fall short. We can all think of times when we did NOT do that routine thing the way we should have, and it hurt us, and possibly others. We’ve all failed God. That’s why He sent Jesus; THE Faithful One, who died on the cross for all of our sins and failures. And thank God I John tells us He IS faithful, and will forgive us whenever we ask. If we’re really grateful for that, then we’ll want to recommit ourselves to be His faithful servants in whatever assignment He gives us to do. 

And the Bible tells us that’s what we want to hear from the Lord one day: “Well done, good and FAITHFUL servant.” THAT is what He is looking for: not “flashy” servants, just faithful servants.  

So in this crisis time, JUST BE FAITHFUL in whatever “little things” God sets before you. And remember that Jesus says if we’ll be faithful in the little things, we will be rewarded with much.

What “little” thing has God set before you right now, that maybe you’ve thought is almost “no big deal,” but God is telling you today you need to be faithful in that little thing, and if you will, He will bless you with much? 

Remember, during this crisis time (and even afterwards) God’s not looking for you to do anything “flashy;” He’s just looking for you to be FAITHFUL. And He’ll use you in a great and mighty way if you will.

INVITATION:

— As we come to this time of invitation, ask God to show you some of the “little things” He wants you to be faithful in during this time:

His word, prayer, giving, opportunities to witness, or to minister and check on people; your own family; being ready to “take a turn” — or maybe something else His Spirit is speaking to YOU about today.

— If you’ve never done it before, you need to ask Jesus to save you today. You know you’ve NOT been as faithful as you should; you need His forgiveness — that’s what He came for!  Tell Him you’re sorry for your sins, and by faith ask Him to save you right now …

RESPOND TO GOD in whatever He has spoken to you about, right now …

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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