August 12, 2018
Have you ever found yourself in exactly the right place at exactly the right time? Maybe you think that’s the kind of good luck that only happens to other people. But have you ever pulled into the parking lot just as a space was opening up near the door? Or have you ever arrived in the produce aisle just as the clerk was restocking the lettuce? Those are little wins, aren’t they? You happen to be in the right place at the right time.
And sometimes there are bigger wins. A few years ago there was an ad on television that showed a young man on his way to an important job interview. As he was hurrying to catch the bus, he noticed a man struggling to change a flat tire. He looks at his watch, he looks at the bus, and he looks at the older man wrestling with the lug wrench, and he makes a choice. He takes off his jacket, rolls up his shirtsleeves, and grabs the lug wrench.
The next scene shows him being ushered into an office, still a little breathless from hurrying to get to the interview on time. A man behind a desk stands to greet him, and as they shake hands, their eyes meet. It’s the older gentleman whose tire he changed half an hour earlier. They both smile. We’re pretty sure he gets the job. Right place, right time. And the right response can make all the difference in the world.
There are stories all through the Bible about God working through people who are in the right place at the right time. But they have to make the right response to those circumstances for God to multiply blessing through them. Like Ruth, for example.
Ruth is not an Israelite; she is from Moab. That makes her a descendant of Abraham’s nephew, Lot. Ruth and Orpah had married sons of Naomi, whose family had moved to Moab to escape a famine. Now, all their husbands have died, but Ruth and Orpah are still young women. Naomi urges them to go back to their own families, and Orpah does.
But Ruth stays with Naomi, and returns with her to Naomi’s hometown of Bethlehem. They arrive just as the barley harvest is getting underway. Naomi sends Ruth out to glean barley behind the harvesters. This was how poor people survived. It just so happens that the field where Ruth goes to glean belongs to one of Naomi’s relatives, a nice guy named Boaz. He notices Ruth, and tells his harvesters to leave a little more behind than normal, so she will have plenty of grain to take home. Ruth is in the right place at the right time.
Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.”
She said to her, “All that you tell me I will do.” (Ruth 3:1-5)
“All that you tell me I will do.” Ruth has the right response to being in the right place at the right time. She is obedient. Her response makes all the difference in the world. We will see in a moment how the obedience of Ruth and Boaz will provide a way for God to exponentially multiply grace.
But before we go there, we need to ask ourselves, just how do we get to be in the right place at the right time? Is it just luck? Is it something we can manipulate on our own? Well, it isn’t luck. And if you try to manipulate yourself into being in the right place at the right time, you will probably fail.
One of the key ways we can find those right place, right time moments is by looking for where God’s already working and what God is already doing. When you can see where God is moving and what God is blessing, that’s where you need to be.
When we join what God is doing by investing our resources at the right place and the right time, God multiplies it. He does the exponential. We’ve seen Him do this in the life of this congregation. Do you realize we’re part of an exponential church? God has placed us in those ‘right place – right time’ moments many times.
For example, this church owns a building that had been allowed to deteriorate over many years. It wasn’t getting much use. Then we became aware that there was no homeless shelter in all of Brown County. Some pastors from the ministerial association got together and discussed the need.
We learned that there were children in the public schools who had no permanent address, and most of these children came from single-parent families. Most of those single parents were women. It was the right time to respond to this need.
This congregation took a leap of faith, and decided to make the house next door available for a ministry to homeless single moms and their kids. Several people thought it was a big risk. There were a lot of things that could go wrong. But you decided to address an urgent need by being in the right place at the right time, and offering the right response: you decided to take a risk, and see what God might do.
Today, NUMAS Haus is recognized throughout the region as a model for ministry that transforms lives. NUMAS Haus doesn’t just provide shelter. It helps women and children rebuild their lives in a sustainable way through education and support services. NUMAS Haus clients stay connected to this network of support for up to two years after they move into permanent housing. This follow up care is a key factor in preventing former residents of NUMAS Haus from becoming homeless again, and helping them break the cycle of poverty.
Breaking the cycle of poverty for NUMAS Haus women will mean that their children can escape from that cycle. They have been given the chance to move away from what has become a systemic problem in our community, and into a new way of life that is fruitful and sustainable.
And it’s all because this church was in the right place at the right time, and had the right response to God’s call. You said yes to investing in the lives of homeless single women and children, and God continues to multiply that investment exponentially.
But here’s the thing about looking for where God’s already working and what God is already doing, so we can join in that work:
We may have to abandon our own plans, to be in the right place at the right time.
Before this church decided to invest in a new ministry that used the house across the parking lot, some people thought we should just tear it down to make a bigger parking lot. Others thought an energetic new youth minister would attract teenagers to the youth ministry that had once flourished in that building.
But neither of those plans were aligned with what God was already doing to establish a ministry to homeless single women and their children. We had to abandon plans to invest in ourselves – making more parking spaces or hiring new staff – in order to join in the work God was already doing to invest in others.
It’s not just recognizing when we’re in the right place at the right time, but it’s also having the right response.
Seeing what God is doing and where He is working is how we find the right place and the right time.
Sowing our time, our abilities, our financial resources – that’s the right response, because when you’re in the right place, at the right time, with the right response, that’s when God does the exponential.
Let’s go back to Ruth and Boaz for a moment. Boaz is an honorable man. He does the right thing as a kinsman to Ruth’s late husband. He marries Ruth, and they build a life together. God blesses them, and that blessing turns into something exponential generations later. Listen to chapter four:
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. (Ruth 4:13-17)
That’s King David, the greatest king Israel ever had. David was a man after God’s own heart. David’s son Solomon would build the temple in Jerusalem. David would become the ancestor of another child born in Bethlehem, whose name was Jesus.
When you plant a single seed in faith, God can multiply it exponentially. When you look for what God is already doing, and where God is already at work, you can be in the right place at the right time to join in that work. And when you invest yourself completely in that work with your time, your ability, and your resources, God multiplies your investment exponentially.
Many of you are already sowing your time and your talent and your treasure into God’s work through this congregation. You’ve been serving in the Wednesday Family Night program, you’ve been volunteering for the monthly community breakfasts, you’ve been tithing and you’re celebrating what God’s doing. You are experiencing God’s love and grace in your own life in profound ways.
But there may be others of you who are only spectators. You’re just watching it. You don’t feel like you’re a part. And maybe before today, you didn’t even have eyes to see what God is doing.
Either way, I’ve got really good news, because each of you have an invitation to join God in what He’s doing. This is your opportunity to take a personal risk, to respond to God’s call, and to experience God’s love and grace being poured into your life in an exponential way.
God is calling you to sow the seeds of those unique gifts and talents that He’s given you into the places where He’s already working. You may have been waiting for an audible voice. Here it is. This is the voice you’ve been waiting for, inviting you into God’s work.
Maybe you’ve been looking for places to invest your financial resources where they will have the greatest return. You want to make a difference that will change lives. You want to do more than just honor God with a tithe – you want to invest in the kind of sacrificial giving Jesus saw in the poor widow who put everything she had into the temple treasury.
Maybe the thing God is calling you to invest is your time. Can you see where God is already at work? Can you let go of your own plans, so that God can move in and through you to fulfill God’s plan for your life?
Whether you sow the seeds of time or ability or other resources, you want to be a part of the exponential multiplication God is already doing in our midst.
The apostle Paul writes to the church in Corinth, “As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”
See, now is the acceptable time;
see, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)
This is the right time. This is the right place. Christ is waiting for you to make the right response, to take a step toward where God is moving, so that God can multiply his grace to you exponentially.