Do you ever get tired of people like me selling you on the idea that you can change the world? Have you seen the world lately? Have you seen you lately? Most days, we feel like we can’t even change ourselves. How could we possibly change the world?
We used to believe that things could be different. We used to pray about things being different. But instead of things getting better, they seem to have actually gotten worse. What’s the point? Should we even keep trying?
I get it. I moved to San Francisco over 12 years ago because I wanted to make a difference. And some days, I hear the difference we’re making in someone’s life here or in one of the churches we’ve helped start around the nation or from one of our international partners who says something like, “We couldn’t do what we’re doing if it weren’t for Epic.” And on these days, I’m filled with gratitude, faith, hope, and confidence.
But then there are other days. I walk around this neighborhood or I hear what happened at our kids’ schools or I read about crime or our drug crisis or how hard it is for families to stay and all of this leads me sometimes to think: Things are actually worse than when we arrived 12 years ago. Have we made any difference here?
What can we do? Well, we can join the exodus of people who have left. Or we can keep to ourselves and pretend that these things don’t exist. Or we can join the part of Jesus’s model prayer that says, “Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And we can begin to reframe how we think about changing the world, specifically getting locked in on what our part might be in the process. Here’s the question we’re after today:
Can I really change the world?
There was a group of people who thought things would never change. After all, they were born into a world that was pretty much the same one their parents and grandparents were born into. And when things stay the same generation after generation, why should you go on hoping that they’d ever be different?
Exodus 2:23-25 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
Cried out – prayed. It’s become a common response after a modern tragedy for people to say something like this – “your prayers and thoughts aren’t really helping.” Maybe so. But that’s not what Jesus or the Scriptures teach us about the power of prayer. I love the way Tyler Staton writes about this in his new book, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools:
“Prayer releases power to affect real change in the tangible world.” Tyler Staton, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools
Do you know what people who believe this actually do?
Do you know what people who don’t really believe this don’t actually do?
You will not change the world the way God intends for you to in your own strength.
What do you see in our world today that you know isn’t the way God intended for it to be?
We can all acknowledge a variety of things but I want you to pay attention to the ones you are most passionate about. Racial prejudice. Gender inequality. Multitudes of people who are chasing wealth and accomplishment, but losing their soul along the way. The absence of fathers in their children’s lives. Human trafficking. Mental health crisis. The unhoused in our city. A city full of people who don’t know Jesus and are on their way to an eternity without Him.
If God answered all of your prayers from the past month, what would be different in our world?
When God wants to change the world, He gives an assignment to a person or a group of people.
And here it comes in Exodus 3:7-12
Exodus 3:7-12 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their salve drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – the home of the Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be a sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
Some obvious questions first.
Why did it take God so long to do something about this? I don’t know.
Why did he choose Moses? There are some clues, but I don’t fully know.
Had God asked someone else to do this work, but they turned Him down? I don’t know.
Why does God get involved in the world through humans, when He could just do it all on His own? Again, I don’t fully know. But I think He loves letting us in on His stuff in the world.
When things in our world are not what they should be YET, let’s not assume that God is distant and apathetic.
God has SEEN the misery.
He has HEARD them crying.
He is CONCERNED about their suffering.
He has COME DOWN to RESCUE them.
When it comes to our desire to change something in our world, some of us want God to do it all on his own and others of us want to do it all on our own. But what if there’s a third way:
What if God wants to change something about our world through you, but only in His power and only for His glory?
Moses asks God a great question – “Who am I?” God doesn’t answer it though. God doesn’t tell Moses that he’s the man or that he has what it takes. He doesn’t seem to answer his question at all actually. Instead he just says, “I will be with you.”
Whatever God wants to do through your life, you will only be able to do it through Him.
If God can use Moses to change his world, He can use you to change yours.
I believe this with all of my heart and you should too. But I also believe this – most of us won’t be Moses. But this doesn’t mean God hasn’t given us a significant part to play in the story He is writing in the world.
Will you carry out whatever assignment God gives you to change the world?
Big or small ways. In public or in private. Whether it takes 6 weeks or the rest of your life.
I’m asking you this because God has something significant for you to do, even if you won’t be the next Moses. What we often forget about this story is that Moses isn’t the only one with an important assignment during this generation.
Exodus 1:15 – 2:6 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.” The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?” The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
Moses will go on to follow God and defy the most powerful leader on earth. But he isn’t the first. Shiphrah and Puah appear to be the leaders among the midwives. Pharaoh tells them that whenever they are helping Hebrew women give birth, if they see that it’s a boy, they are to kill him.
This is the order. Not only is it law; it’s also the cultural narrative in this moment of history. The midwives, HOWEVER, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt told them to do.
We have a cultural narrative that we’re living in the middle of also. And let me give you a pastoral encouragement and warning. If we aren’t careful, we could show up at church every Sunday and still live completely in step with the world around us. And if you are wondering what’s wrong with that, you should know this:
If you are living completely in step with the world around you, you are living out of step with the way of Jesus.
You can’t change the world around you if you’re primarily being formed by the world around you.
These midwives were being formed by something else. I’ve never done this before, but I’ve actually come up with a manifesto for us. You ready for it?
- To change your world, choose God’s ways over the world’s ways.
- Help birth new realities in the world.
- Choose the favor of God over the favor of powerful humans.
But it’s not just the midwives responding in this way. Pharaoh gives another order – throw all of Hebrew boys in the Nile River.
Moses’s mother and sister did all they thought they could for Moses. Thankfully there was another woman who didn’t follow all of the rules either – Pharaoh’s daughter. She has compassion on this baby boy and raises him as her own.
Moses is going to change things for an entire nation. But someone has to give birth to Moses and someone has to raise this world-changer. Without Moses’s mother, sister, and even Pharaoh’s daughter – there’s no Moses.
One of the best ways to change the world is through investing in the next generation.
Parenting. Epic Kids. Epic Students. Mentoring. Sponsorship.
I can’t do everything, but I can sponsor Saddam in Uganda and Grace in Ghana.
Emily Wu can’t serve every girl in San Francisco, but she is serving girls through teaching them dance at Because Justice Matters.
And as a church, we can’t impact people living in every community around the world, but we are making an impact in these places: Kampala, Uganda; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Oradea, Romania; and communities in Guatemala, Ghana, Chile, Costa Rica, & India.
Maybe God is calling you to be the next Moses.
Or maybe He is calling you to raise the next Moses.
Or maybe He is calling you to protect the next Moses.
Or perhaps He is calling you to mentor and develop the next Moses.
Or maybe He is calling you to defy what’s become normal in our world.
Choose 1 person or group.
Choose 1 way you will engage in an ongoing way.
Ask God to move in power.
Ask Him to play His part and commit to playing your part.