BECOMING A DIFFERENCE MAKER
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF YOUR WORTH
PASTOR ED YOUNG
MAY 30, 1993
One of the greatest difference makers of all time has to be Moses. Moses’ résumé is quite impressive if you study his life. He freed a nation—I’m talking about two million people—from 400 years of slavery. He penned the first five books of the Bible. He was the man to whom God revealed the Ten Commandments. Cecil B. DeMille even produced an epic motion picture about this man’s life, and I’ve always asked myself this question, “Why did God choose Moses?” Why did God choose Moses? God chose Moses because Moses made the right choices. God chose Moses because Moses made the right choices. Moses was able to make the right choices because he asked the right questions. I’m in a series entitled “Becoming a Difference Maker” and today, as we look at the life of Moses, I want you to notice four questions that every difference maker must ask themselves if they are really going to make an impact on this earth. I hope and pray that we ask and answer these questions like our man Moses.
Take your Bibles and turn to the book of Hebrews, Hebrews 11 and we’ll look at Verses 24 through 27. Four questions now that we have to ask ourselves. The first question that’s so important is called the “identity question.” The identity question. In other words, “Who am I?” That’s a great place to start, isn’t it? Who am I? And Moses asked himself this very question.
Hebrews 11:24, the Bible says, “By faith, Moses, when he had grown up….” He was about forty years of age; he was going through mid-life crisis. He didn’t know whether to be an Egyptian or a Hebrew. You see, he was born a peasant, a slave, and he became an Egyptian. In fact, he was the next man who was going to take over the most powerful nation on the earth. Moses faced a dilemma and the Bible says, “…when he had grown up, he refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.” This term “refused” is pronounced in the Greek “arneomai;” it means, “to reject.” It means to take a dead bolt and refuse to be known as something, and to turn and go the opposite way, and that was a difficult task for Moses. Moses had power. He had prestige. Everyone knew who he was. Mr. Egypt, 1300 B.C. A handsome guy. A leader. The Bible says, though, when he had grown up, he had to ask himself this question, “Who am I?” He struggled with it. He went back and forth. “Maybe by day, I’ll be a Hebrew. I’ll act like a slave. At night, though, I love the palace life.”
Have you asked yourself this question? Have you come to the point in your life where you say, “God, what is my identity? What’s my identity?” Because a lot of us here, we need to do what Moses did. We need to refuse to be known as what someone else has told us—maybe that we’re a reject, that we’re “no count,” that we’re not good enough, that we’ll never measure up. I believe when we all get to heaven, God will ask us one question, “Why weren’t you more like you?”
You see, you’ve got to be you because no one else will be you for you. Are you you? I talk to people and I call these people Clark Kent-type people. They’re always in disguise with the glasses, the suits, the dresses, trying to cover up who they really are, trying to be someone else. When beneath the exterior, beneath the facade, there’s a superman or a superwoman. Go ahead and be yourself. There’s great freedom when you’re yourself.
In fact, the Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:10, “We are His (talking about God’s) workmanship.” This term “workmanship” is “poema” in the Greek. We got the word “poem” from it, meaning we are a masterpiece, a work of art, a classic. We’re one in five billion. If you weren’t you, there would be a hole in history, a gap in creation. You are specifically designed, the Bible says, to do specific works that no one else, I’ll say it again, no one else can do but you.
When I started off in the ministry ten years ago, I used to try to imitate when I would speak, the “heroes” of the ministry. I would talk like this now and then [speaks in deep tone] and do the forced gestures and everything. One day, a friend of mine who spoke the truth in love said, “Ed, chill. Be yourself. Be Ed Young,” and at that moment I realized “I’m made in the image of God. I shouldn’t worry about the crowd. I should perform for an audience of one, that’s God.” As long as you, as long as I, as long as we, as long as everyone performs for an audience of one, we have nothing to worry about. Everything else will take care of itself in your life and in my life. We are His workmanship.
Moses was forty years of age when he had this first identity crisis. Exodus 3 tells us he had another identity crisis. Now he’s 80 years of age. Moses is out in the desert. He’s been out there for a long, long time, a sheepherder. All he’s doing is walking miles and miles and miles trying to find some grass for his sheep; and God calls Moses to be a deliverer of Egypt. God said, “Moses, you are the man to do it,” and Moses said, “God, you’ve got the wrong guy.” In fact, Exodus 3:11, Moses’ first response to God’s call was this, “Who am I? God, who am I?” Then he said, “God [stutters], I can’t speak that well. I’m more like Mel Tillis than Bob Costas. My brother, he can. God, you’re talking about speak…. My brother, Aaron, in fact, most people think he will be the next anchorman for the Egyptian Nightly News. He’s the man. Choose him, God. Not me. I’m 80 years old. I’m doing the Geritol thing, God. How about Aaron?” And God says, “Moses, I want you!”
Moses compared himself to his brother, to other people. When we compare ourselves, I’m talking about when we contrast ourselves with another human being, we’re making a mockery of God’s creative genius. We love to compare, don’t we? “Hmm, yes, well, I’m better than…. I’m not as good as…. Well, I’m a lot better than…. I can do….” We need to compare ourselves to God and not worry about what the audience thinks. Moses got into the comparison game.
Finally, after God called Moses in the desert and God said, “Moses, you’re the man,” Moses saw himself the way God viewed him and then he was able to step out and really seek and know and own his true identity. There’s a second question you’ve got to ask yourself if you’re going to be a difference maker. It’s called the responsibility question. Yes, you’ve got to ask and answer the identity question: “Who am I?” But there’s also another question, it’s called the responsibility question and here’s the question, “What am I going to do with my life?”
The first one was “Who am I?” The second one is “What am I going to do with my life?” It’s called the responsibility question. Look at the next verse, Hebrews 11:25. It says, “He chose….” Circle the word that’s talking about Moses, “He chose.” I believe the greatest gift God has given you and me, next to our salvation, has to be the freedom of choice. We can choose to love God or we can choose to reject God. We can choose to say “yes,” “maybe” or “no.” We have a freedom of choice, and Moses came to this decision time and Moses chose, the Bible says in Verse 25, “to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.”
You see up there in Verse 24 of Hebrews 11? “Moses refused,” and here we have in Hebrews 11:25, Moses choosing. First, he’s refusing, then he’s choosing. And here’s a biblical principle: every time God gives a negative in Scripture, He always backs it up with a positive. There comes a time, a point in your life and my life, when we have to take responsibility for our lives. God’s not going to mess our lives up. Satan can’t if we know Jesus Christ, or if we make the wrong choices. So the only one who can truly blow it is Ed. It’s you, people of The Fellowship of Las Colinas. We have to take the accountability and responsibility for our lives.
Difference makers, they realize a couple of things. Difference makers realize that they cannot become a trapeze artist. Did you hear that? Difference makers realize they cannot become a trapeze artist. You’ve been to the Ringling Brothers circus before, haven’t you, to see the people on the flying trapeze? I talk to people now and then, and they’ll find out that I’m a pastor and every time they find out I’m a pastor, they do a quick rewind and they think, “What did I say? Did I cuss? How do I look?” You know, “Pastor.” Then the next phrase is this. They blurt out and say, “My grandfather is a pastor. He helped build a church; and my mother, oh Ed, you should have had my mother. She was the best Christian lady in the world.” I call it trapeze faith. They want to swing into heaven on their mother’s apron strings or on their grandfather’s coat tails. “Well, because I have this heritage, that means that everything is okay.” It doesn’t work, though. Just because your parents are the most fabulous Christians to ever walk the face of the earth, that does not constitute your spiritual commitment. You have to make the choice yourself.
Difference makers also realize they cannot get involved in “the blame game.” A couple of weeks ago, Lisa and I had the staff over to our house. She cooked a wonderful meal for them, about twenty people. After the meal, she pulls out her favorite board game—my wife is into board games big time—“Pictionary,” and we all gather around the table and we are into intense competition. In fact, the competition became too intense. 1:00 a.m., they’re still going strong—“I called.” “No, you cheated.” Our staff. [laughter] Finally, the game broke up.
A lot of us are playing a game and we’re sitting at the board table and we play hour after hour, day after day. It’s called the blame game. Our society, I’m talking about you and me, our favorite thing to do is to point the finger and blame someone else for our problems. I’ve realized something over the years. Every time I point the finger at someone, at least three other fingers are pointing back to me. They are. We blame everyone else for everything and we never put the finger on ourselves. “Well, I’m the way I am because my father… because my mother… because that happened to me…and this.” We go back in our past and we wallow and we wade through all that and we never live in the present because we are hung up in the past.
Yes, there are some things that occur in people’s lives that are terrible, that you could not control, that I could not control. We can, however, control our response to the things that happen. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can control our response. Are you playing the blame game? Just blaming away. Blaming this, blaming that. You’ve got to own up. You’ve got to tell the truth about yourself and say, “I’m going to be responsible.”
There’s a third thing that difference makers have to understand, and this is deep here. We’re not puppets. That’s right. We are not puppets. I’m going to say something that might shock some people here. Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, the Cookie Monster, they’re not real. I know it’s a shock. They’re not real. There’s someone back there in the costumes doing all this stuff for them. No one controls you or controls me like a puppet. We have the freedom to choose. Are you making the right choice?
I believe the main thing that robs most Christians from really going with God is the fact that they’re not ready to turn their backs on the things of this world and follow the Lord. They want them both. They want to have one foot in Egypt and one foot in the Hebrew land. They’re not willing to choose this day whom they will serve, and that brings us to the third question.
The responsibility question. The identity question. And the third question, the priority question. The priority question. What’s really important? What is really important? Because if we don’t set our values, someone else will set them for us; and the media loves to try to do this. By and large, the media is value-less. Here’s what Moses did. Verse 26, Hebrews 11 says, “he regarded disgrace…”—and this word “regarded” means “to make a moral choice; to judge the value of something.”—“He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
Briefly, in Verses 24-26, you have the world’s value system right there. Here’s the world’s value system, a little rhyme. The world’s measure—Moses walked away from that in Verse 24. The world’s pleasure—in Verse 25 he turned his back on that. And the world’s treasure in verse 26. One more time. I love things that rhyme. Measure, pleasure, and treasure.
Moses walked away from the three things that most of us spend our entire lives trying to get. “If I could only have the world’s measure, man. People clapping for me. People knowing who I am. That would be it!” Moses knew that was a lie. He knew that God’s purpose was much more powerful than popularity. I always say that praise and criticism are kind of like chewing gum. You chew on them for a while, but you don’t swallow it. You know what I’m saying? If you are in a leadership position, if you’re really being a difference maker, if you’re calling the shots, you’re going to have to take the shots. One minute Moses knew he’d be a hero. The next minute he’s a zero. He turned his back on the measure, on the popularity.
He also turned his back on pleasure. You’re talking about pleasure. Moses could have done like this [claps hands] in the Egyptian palace, and he’d have had four or five Miss Egypts 1300 B.C. coming to him and peeling grapes for him, “Hi Moses,” and fanning him and everything. Just like that. And he walks away from it. Look what it says here in Verse 25, “Moses chose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than to endure (here’s the word) the pleasures of sin for a short time.” Let me say something. Sin is fun. I’ll say it one more time. If it wasn’t fun, we wouldn’t do it. Sin, though, is fun—the Bible says—for a short time. It has its kick and then its kickbacks. Wouldn’t you agree? For a while you think, “Oh, this sin is great! Oh yes. Sin, sin, sin, sin!” Then one day—bop! Oh, oh! It’s only enjoyable for a short time, and Moses knew this and Moses also realized that people are more important than pleasure. He understood that he was a person of God.
Also, in Verse 26, he walked away from the “treasures of Egypt.” See the word “treasures” in Verse 26, “he regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt.” He knew the peace of God again was more valuable than possessions, and at that time, all the wealth was concentrated right there in Egypt. He had it all. He was the new Pharaoh. Billions and billions and billions of dollars. He left it, though, because he asked himself this priority question. “What are my priorities? What’s important to me?” He saw that which was invisible and he knew the typical things wouldn’t satisfy.
There’s a fourth question, though, and this is called the difficulty question. This is where it all happens here. This is where the rubber meets the road. Difficulty question. And here’s the difficulty question, “Am I willing to let go? Am I willing to let go?” The difficulty question. Moses had to let go two times in his life. The first time is in Verse 27 of Hebrews 11. “By faith Moses left Egypt, not fearing the king’s wrath. He persevered because he saw Him who was invisible.” You see, Moses had visualization going on. Visualization is not a new age term. It’s a biblical term. It’s a New Age term if you examine your navel and you visualize a crystal. Visualization, though, is a great thing if you visualize the proper things, which is what Christ wants to do with your life and my life.
The second thing Moses dealt with and the second instance where he had to let go, is really where we want to concentrate. Take a giant turn to the book of Exodus. Exodus 4 and here is the scene. Moses, forty years in the wilderness. Moses hearing this all day [sheep bleating]. Hot, arid climate. He was tired of the desert. Suddenly God appears to him and God says, “Moses, I am choosing you to deliver your people from slavery.” And what does Moses say in Verse 1? Moses said, “God, listen, you have got the wrong guy.” “Moses…” “God…” “Moses, I want you to do it.” “God, I cannot do it.” Finally, God asks Moses this question, “Moses, what do you hold in your hand?” “God, what do you think it is? It’s a staff, God; and this is my identity, God. You see, I use this to ward off wild beasts. I use this to negotiate difficult terrain. I use this staff to lean on. This staff is really my connection with my life, God. A staff. What do you think it is, God?”
Then God said something I think is kind of strange. “Moses, throw the staff down.” “God,” Moses was saying, “you’re talking about this staff? On the ground? No, no. God, that’s kind of odd.” “Throw it on the ground, Moses.” “God, time out. Why do you…?” “Throw it on the ground.” Moses takes the staff, his identity, and he throws it on the ground and this shepherd’s staff becomes a snake. Most experts believe it became a king cobra and Moses did what most of us do, “Ahh!” He’s cruising from the snake. God says, “Moses, stop!” [Screeching sound] “God, wait a minute. It’s a cobra. He’s coming after me.” “Moses, stop!” “Okay, God. Okay.” “Moses, pick the snake up by the tail.” “Say what, God? You mean the head, don’t you, God? Because you cannot pick up a king cobra…” “By the tail, Moses.” “Okay, God.” So he kind of creeps around and he is shaking. He’s scared. And the Bible says he picks a king cobra up, a serpent, a snake, by the tail, and guess what happened? It becomes a shepherd’s staff. It’s not an ordinary staff anymore. See in Verse 2, it says, “What’s that in your hand?” “A staff.” Circle that phrase, “a staff.”
After Moses throws a staff, his staff, down on the ground, it becomes—look at Exodus 4, the last part of Verse 20—“he took the staff of God.” You see, first it was Moses’ staff, and once he threw it down and picked it back up, it became God’s staff and Moses used God’s staff to part the Red Sea, to smack the Rock of Horeb for water so the people could drink. He used it to win battles. It became the staff of God.
There are a couple of things that we need to learn that are so profound right beneath the surface. Here’s the first thing we’ve got to learn about this interchange with God, because God is looking at your life and my life and He’s asking us the same question, “Ed, Ed, what do you hold in your hand?” And here’s the principle. God meets us where we are and He meets us with what we have in our hands. What are you holding on to? What do you have in your hand? I’m talking about right now. Could it be a career? Could it be a poor self-esteem? Could it be priorities that are really out of balance? Could it be a large sum of money? Could it be a relationship? Could it be a family? Could it be an IQ? And you’re saying like Moses, “Wait a minute, God. This is mine. This won’t cause me any harm. It is mine. It is my identity. It’s how I connect with individuals. No God. I’m not going to let this go.” And God asks us, “Let go. Throw it down. Throw it down,” and the moment we throw it down, whatever this thing is that we’re holding dearly to us, it becomes a snake, and that snake represents self. It represents the selfish nature that all of us have. And here’s the second principle. Once we throw something down and it becomes God’s exclusive property, then He will use that object, talent, or whatever, in ways you never thought possible.
What are you holding tightly against your chest like Moses was holding that shepherd’s staff? What is it? God’s saying, “Throw it down.” You’re saying, “No.” He’s saying, “Throw it down,” because the moment we throw it down, we’ll see what trouble it could cause if we held it tightly. It’s like holding on to a coiled serpent; it’s a matter of time before it comes back and bites you. But if we give it to God, if we let it go in total surrender, then when we pick it back up, that serpent, that selfish nature that we were holding on to, will turn into something incredible. It won’t be your talent. It will be God’s talent. It will not be your perception of yourself. It will be God’s perception of you. What are you holding on to? What are you holding on to? It’s time for you to let it go.