Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Use God’s Powerful Word! (A sermon based on Isaiah 55:10-11)

Water is life. Just ask the farmer in time of drought. We need water to live. In the same way that we need water for our physical lives, we need God's Word for our spiritual lives. We can't artificially produce it and without it we cannot live. But God, in love, showers us with his grace. And he keeps our faith watered by the Word so it keeps growing and producing fruits of faith. Now we're eager to use that powerful Word, not only in our own lives, but sharing it with others that they too might be refreshed with the Gospel and grow in their faith as well. Read or listen to (download or stream) this sermon based on Isaiah 55:10-11 and be encouraged to use God's powerful Word!

Use God's Powerful Word!

A sermon based on Isaiah 55:10-11

Sunday, August 7, 2011 – Pentecost 8A


A little over a year ago as the Guenther family settled on the Kenai Peninsula we were met with many smiling faces and… a lot of rain. I remember my wife asking, "If this is summer, what's winter going to be like?" Thankfully, this summer's been a lot sunnier… until recently. This past week someone said to me, "Well, summer was nice. But now it's time for the rain until it turns to snow."

Do you like the rain? It seems that if you live on the West Coast, you'd better get used to it. But it's not always fun, is it? When you're out on a hike or ready to fish, when you're ready to go for a bike ride or a jog, rain can alter your plans or ruin your fun.

But thank God that it does rain. For if it never rained, we'd all be in a lot of trouble. Drought kills crops. It kills animals and if it's severe enough it will kill us. We need rain to live. And God in his grace sends it often—especially to us on the coast.

But this morning, we hear the prophet Isaiah speak of something we need even more than rain. He compares the Word of God with the rains that fall to water the crops. He points out that just like rain provides for our physical needs, God's Word provides for our spiritual needs.  He reminds us to use God's powerful Word. Use it to strengthen your faith. And use it to proclaim to the world. Listen again to Isaiah's encouragement to us in Isaiah 55:10-11…


10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.


I.              To Strengthen Your Faith (v.10)


A young child once asked, "Where does rain come from?" His dad, not really wanting to go into a lengthy explanation of evaporation, condensation, precipitation and saturation, simply said, "Rain comes from God." To which the child responded, "Why? Is God crying?"

Really, what the dad pointed out is true. Rain comes from God. With all of our technology, rain is something we can't artificially produce. Just ask the farmer during a dry spell. God sends the rain or snow to feed the streams and rivers and lakes from which we draw our water. He gives water for us and all creatures to drink. He gives us water to make our crops grow so we and the animals we eat all have food. We need God's life-giving rain. Without it we would all die.

You can see why the Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to use rain as a picture for God's Word, can't you? Just like the rain, it comes from God. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven… so is my word that goes out from my mouth. We can't artificially produce it. When humans try to manufacture God's Word, the best they can come up with is work righteousness—what we must to do win God's favor. But the Scriptures are not man-made. They come from God. They come from his mouth, with divine authority, even when spoken through a sinful man like Isaiah.

Just like rain and snow water the ground so it can produce life and vegetation, so God's Word also gives life. Like the rains that loosen the hard dry soil, so God's law softens our hearts. He uses his Word to point out our sins to bring us to repentance. He points out how we take the life giving Word for granted. How we don't use the Word as often as we should to stay spiritually hydrated like we ought. We assume we'll always have God's Word readily available whenever we get around to it. We don't treat God's grace to us like Martin Luther once described it as a passing rain cloud, ready to move on where it's not received. We forget that just like the land without water is dead, so our souls without God's Word are just as dead.

We sometimes think, "I don't need God's Word today. I'm just fine without." Or "I'm too busy to read God's Word today." But when was the last time you said, "I'm too busy to drink anything today."? We water our bodies while we leave our souls dehydrated. For this neglect and for countless other sins, we deserve hell. And on our own, we re neither aware of our situation nor did we care. But God sends his powerful Word to soften the soil of our heart and point out our desperate need for a Word of help—that Word of our Savior.

And God in his grace gives us his life-bringing Word of the Gospel. And he doesn't just give us a misting or a little sprinkle of his grace. No. He gives us a full shower, drenching us with his grace so we're completely saturated. At our baptisms he connects that powerful Word with physical water and washes away our every sin. In worship every week, he reminds us of our sins and of his grace in Christ, who's death on the cross takes away our every sin and makes us clean. He gives us countless opportunities and the freedoms to study his Word together in Bible classes to learn of his grace that keeps us spiritually hydrated and rejoicing. He gives us the intellect to read and the unappreciated freedom to carry a Bible wherever we go making the waters of his grace available at any time and in any place.

And this grace, that's poured down on us like a gentle but constant stream gives us life. It not only gives us the seed of faith in our hearts, but it waters it so it might bud and flourish into a beautiful tree that gives its fruits of faith. Moved by God's grace to us in his powerful Word, we desire to do his will. We want to stop taking the gift of his powerful Word for granted but use it. Drink from it often. Have fun getting drenched in Bible class. Enjoy a nice cool glass on your break at work. Relax in the showers of his grace before you go to bed. Use God's Word often to grow in your faith, to bud and flourish. If you need some suggestions on how you can get the Word regularly, visit the website and click the devotional tools link. Find lots of ways to get watered by the Word.


But then, don't just use it for yourself. Once you've been watered and once you've grown, use it in thanksgiving to God and proclaim his Word to the World. After all, God gives us the assurance that it always works. Isaiah wrote…


II.            To Proclaim to the World (v.11)


10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.


Can you think of a time that it's rained at your house and your lawn hasn't been watered by it? Of course not. When it rains, the plants get wet. No matter where it rains, it doesn't evaporate without having some effect on the land first. It always waters the earth. It always feeds the rivers and streams. It always has an effect.

And the same holds true for God's Word. Whenever it is preached in its truth it will have an effect. And while it might not always be the effect we desire, it will always have the effect God desires. The Holy Spirit will always work through the preaching of the Word in one of two ways. The first: He might harden the heart of the one who rejects the Word of God, leaving that person with no excuse on judgment day, with no way of saying, "But God, I didn't know!" Or the Holy Spirit will soften the already hard heart and work to create faith. Though we often won't know which he's doing at any given time, we know that the Word will work. It will always have an effect on both the hearer and on the one speaking.

The Word of God is powerful and effective, like a double-edged sword. It the power of God—his dynamite! It's more powerful than the most vicious tsunami. For God's Word brought everything into existence. God spoke… and it was. God's Word cured incurable diseases. God's Word brought dead people back to life. God's Word still brings dead hell-bound sinners to life. Don't let its weak messengers like me fool you. Don't let its humble appearance in a simple book deceive. It is the most powerful thing on the face of the earth! So let's stop treating it like it's weak!

If God suddenly appeared and stood before us in the front of church, would any of us dare to call him a wimp? Of course not! Then why do we call his Word wimpy? "Well, I've never called the Word of God wimpy!" you say. But we do all the time! We call his Word weak when we refuse to share the message of the gospel with a friend at work thinking, "It'll never work on him. He'll never stop making fun of Christians and Christianity. He'll never believe." We treat God's Word as weak when we think that it's lost its power. "The gospel will never motivate my spouse or kids to change, I need to preach more law!" We treat his Word like it's weak when we think it doesn't have the power to change lives, "Sure, the Bible's got some good stuff in there, but it can't address my problems. The message of Jesus can't comfort here. So why read it? Why share it?!"

But listen again to what God says through Isaiah, "It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." That's God's promise. It's as certain as your salvation. For that same Word that is powerful enough to wake you from your spiritual apathy, that same Word that makes you feel guilty for your sins and seek God's forgiveness, that same Word that's brought you comfort and peace, removing your guilt with the assurance that every one of your sin is forgiven in Christ, that same Word that moves you to no longer live for yourselves, but for him who died and rose again on your behalf, that same Word will work in the hearts of others. So be bold to preach God's Word. Be ready to speak his law. Be eager to share his gospel.

Read a devotion at home – out loud with your family. Talk about what you learned in Bible Class or in worship when you go to work or to play. Or do something even more simple. You never know what effect you might have on your co-worker when you wish him God's blessings instead of a good weekend. You never know what your neighbor may be thinking when he sees you leave for church every Sunday and when he sees you rejoicing every day in the hope that you have. You never know what an impact you might have if you just leave a copy of Forward in Christ or Meditations in the lobby of the doctor's office or the mechanic's shop.

You never know what seeds you might be planting. You never know what faith you might be watering. Maybe 20 years from now, after you've completely lost contact with the one you shared your faith with, maybe then she'll come around. Maybe then he'll believe. And through you God will bring that person to faith and others through him or her as each one buds and flourishes and produces seeds again.

God's Word is powerful. Whenever it is preached it is never in vain. It is never a waste of time. It's powerful to create and strengthen faith. So use it for yourself! It's powerful to bring others to faith, in spite of all appearances. So trust his promises and use it. Preach it to the world.


Preach you the Word and plant it home To those who like or like it not,

The word that shall endure and stand When flow'rs and mortals are forgot.

Though some be snatched and some be scorched

And some be choked and matted flat,

The sower sows; his heart cries out, "Oh, what of that, and what of that?"

Preach you the Word and plant it home And never faint; the Harvest-Lord

Who gave the sower seed to sow Will watch and tend his planted Word.


Trust in the power of the Word! Use it in your life and share it with others. In Jesus' name, dear friends, amen.


In Him,

Pastor Rob Guenther

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church
47585 Ciechanski Road, Kenai, AK 99611

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