By Pastor Jessica Wang
23 Oct 2011 Sunday
Scripture Reading: Ruth 1:15-22
15 "Look," said Naomi, "your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her."
16 But Ruth replied, "Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me."
18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.
19 So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, "Can this be Naomi?"
20 "Don't call me Naomi," she told them. "Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.
21 I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me."
22 So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.
Good morning. Let’s bow down and pray together: dear Lord, our heavenly Father, Thank you so much! Let us know you are almighty God through the worship song. Let us know that God – you are King. God, let us be with you in every circumstance. Today I want tolift up all brothers and sisters in your hands, and please strengthen us and speak to us and give us Your words so that we may trust in You and follow You and live out our faith in our daily life. Also I want to lift up myself in your hands, God, please come to me and give me Your wisdom and Your words. May my mind and my thought be pleasing to You. God, we want to lift up the rest of time in Your hand. Let all of us fill your presence and speak to us. We pray in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.
Recently, when I read the Bible, Book of Ruth, it really touched me, that is why I want to share with you today. I choose some scripture from Ruth, and I want to share with you how a young lady experienced life changing adventure.
Actually in our daily life, everyone, including me, wants some change in somewhere or somehow. Because living in Beijing is not so easy. For myself, when I get up, I hope I can get on a bus and arrive at the church as soon as possible. I hope I won’t stay on the road for more than 2 hours. But how can we experience the life changing in our life as a Christian? I want to show you an example of a young lady who put her trust in God. She had a life changing adventure which also fulfilled the purposes of God.
I don’t know how many people have already read the Book of Ruth before. If you didn’t read it before, I will briefly introduce this book for you. This book opens with 3 women in a hopeless desperate circumstance, but God is alive and real. He lives in His people, and He is very concerned and full of compassionAs we look at the story, we will find that the story began with a famine in Bethlehem of the land of Judah, because one family moved from Bethlehem to Moab to find food. The father was Elimelech, the mother was Naomi, and they had 2 sons. Naomi’s husband died. The two sons married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. 10 years later, their husbands died also. In the culture in those days, women couldn’t live without the support from their father, husband or son. How did these ladies survive? When we read the book, we will find out how they survived. In the end, God made a brand new way for them. God supported them, and God provided what they needed, because Moami and Ruth followed God and trusted in Him and lived out their faith in their daily life.
I will share with you in 3 steps how our life can be changed.
1. A life changing moment starts from trusting in God.
The Bible told us, when Naomi heard that God blessed her and had food there, she and her daughter-in-law prepared to go back home. They started the journey to Judah. But Naomi asked her daughter-in-law to go back to their hometown and not go with her to Bethlehem. One of her daughter-in-law kissed her, cried and left her. The other one, named Ruth, said to her mother-in-law: Ruth 1:16 “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
From this part, we know that this is such a beautiful statement. Ruth made a decision and this decision began her life changing moment for herself and her mother-in-law. She decided to stay with Naomi, to show that Ruth wanted to serve her mother-in-law; it showed the loyalty of Naomi. It showed that she had a servant’s heart, an obedient heart and a determined heart. It also showed that she trusted in God, because she said “your God my God, your people will be my people.”
Dear brothers and sisters, I want to encourage you and encourage myself, if we want to have a life changing experience, we have to make the right decision. Life changing moment started when Ruth made the decision to follow Naomi and God. It is the same for us. Our life changing moment starts when we make the decision to follow God. If you are a Christian, I am sure you have the same experience which Ruth had. When you look back on your life, you will realize that when you make the decision to follow God, you will find out your life totally changed.
2, Living out the faith in practice
After the 2nd service today, a lady came to my office, she asked me to pray for her, asking for healing. She said she became a Christian several years ago, but her life didn’t change, and became worse and worse. She asked me: “Why? Could you please pray for me?” Because she thought the pastor had more power and pastor’s prayer would be answered and would work. I asked her and found out why this lady coming to seek Jesus just wanted to be healed. She didn’t know the meaning of following Jesus. Actually in the church, in this society, there are so many people who are like this lady. They don’t want to do any work but they want more money. And they don’t want to study hard but they want to get higher mark. Even after they follow Jesus, their life style has not changed. When I read the Book Ruth, I found out it was different. When Ruth made the decision to follow Naomi and her God, she didn’t expect to get more benefit from her mother-in-law or God, but she was ready to serve Naomi and her God.
After we make the decision to follow Jesus, the second step is that we have to check our life style, and we have to follow what Jesus teaches us what we should do and how we can be good Christians. So we should be living out the faith in practice.
The Bible tells us that Ruth took the responsibility of caring for her mother-in-law.
First, when Ruth chose to follow Naomi and God, she had to break all ties from her past. She gave up her family, country, culture and her gods; she even gave up her own benefit. She moved to another country by trusting in God. Her desire was not to let her mother-in-law serve her, but her desire was serving her mother-in-law and her God. Not only that, Ruth also came with Naomi to Bethlehem. After they were in Bethlehem, the challenge they were facing was that there was no food for them. So Ruth took the responsibility to take care of Naomi by picking up the leftover grain.
The Bible tells us that ‘Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Let me go the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her: ”Go ahead, my daughter.” Ruth 2:2
This is different from the lady who came to my office, because when Ruth and Naomi came back to Bethlehem, they didn’t just cry or stay at home or just prayed while doing nothing. Because they trusted in God, they hoped they could find a field that anyone who had favor in her and then she could pick up the leftover grain.
If we read the Old Testament, we will find that this is the way that how poor people survive. In Leviticus 19:9-10, it reads that God tells people of Israel ”when you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien.’ So the Lord said that ‘I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:9-10).“
God has already given his people this law. If you have the field and the harvest, please leave some to the poor. That is how the poor people survived in those days. So by God’s guiding, she went to the field of Boaz. God blessed her by giving her favor with Boaz. From the surface, maybe we may say that ‘she could just go out and find the place”. But we know that this is the guiding from God,because the Bible tells us that in Chapter 2 verse 12, ‘May the LORD repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge’.
Today we sing a song named ‘Still’, and it really touched my heart. You know all my brothers and sisters and myself, today we come here, we come to our God, under his wings, we take the refuge. We made the right decision, we did the right thing, and God will bless us as he blessed Ruth. Ruth came to Bethlehem,which means that she gave up all the things and all the opportunities to rely on people, and to rely on others. She came to take refuge under our God’s wings. So, dear brothers and sisters, God will let her be still, that is why God provided her daily bread and took her through her hard work.
This is the difference that I shared at the beginning. I want all my brothers and sisters to come to the church and pray a lot, and also, we need to work hard. In this way, God will help us, God will guide us, and God will let us find the favor in our boss. So the Bible says ‘So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed the barley she had gathered, and it amounted to about an ephah. She carried it back to town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough (Ruth 2:17 -18)’. When God gave her favor, she did not always take the grain, as the people always gave her something to drink and eat. In this way, God provided Ruth and her mother-in-law daily bread.
So dear brothers and sisters, that is why I want to encourage you that living on this world is not easy, no matter if you are Christian or non-Christian. But we know that no matter what happened, no matter in what kind of circumstances, as Ruth had lost everything – her husband, country, food, but when she trusted in God, when she did what God wanted her to do, and when she put her faith in practice, God made a brand new way for her. God provide daily bread to her.
So dear brothers and sisters, that is why I want to encourage you that please do not stay lazy, or stay in a self-centered lifestyle. Once we make our decision to follow Jesus, we have to ask God to change us, not only change our mind, but also change our habit.
Today before this meeting I had a small meeting with all the group leaders, and I asked each of them a question – What has God done in your life? The answers made me feel very great, because they did not say things like “God does not give me a great job, nor a beautiful car, nor so much money”, but they said that “God changed my life”. Through the Bible, through this thing or that thing. God changed my attitude, through His words. God built up me, and God made me grow, through different circumstances. So dear brothers and sisters, this is what I want, this is what I want in my life, that not just ask God to serve me, but let me serve others; do not only let God bless us, but let us be a blessing to others.
Two weeks ago, I heard a news from one of the volunteer leaders. As you know, recently, our English fellowship kept recruiting new volunteers – worship team, website team, and host team. Every Sunday, we make announcement. Actually, there are some people coming to fill in application forms, but when we check the e-mail, we found that there was a long list under the worship team, but maybe two or only one for the host team. I did not mean that worship team is not important, or host team is very important.
But we can see that worship team serves here every Sunday, and especially sometimes the pastor will say ‘Great! Thank you so much for singing and praising our God with our heart through our worship team”. This is a great job, I really want to say thank you to the worship team for leading us to worship our God, it really comes from our heart.
But also, I want to let you see that there are actually some people who stand behind the public. They serve God, but where are they? I do not think that they want us to know that they are here and serving God. I think that I know the majority of the worship team members very well, they are very humble, they did not say that ‘oh I come here to worship God’. But now, as the pastor of the English fellowship, I want to let you know, if you want to stand out in this church, the host team needs more and more volunteers.
You know every host team member comes to the church earlier than others., In fact, all host team memberscome to the church every Sunday, but they can not sit down. Some of them have to stand outside, and they cannot listen to the preaching or worship neither. But, you know, what we do is not to show to others, and but to serve our God. So I want to give thanks to the worship team, host team, website team, PPT, sound system, all of the brothers and sisters, you serve hard.
In this society, being a Christian, I want to encourage you to be brave. Recently from the website and the news, we got to know that there was a two-year old girl who died by accident. I’m sure most of us know that story. I will not say much more about that. Why this young girl died? That’s because there were so many people passed by her, but no one took care of her. Why couldn’t people take care of her? Because they were worrying about something else. Many people criticize those people who walked away and didn’t take care of the young girl. Today, I don’t want to criticize them, but I want to encourage us, including me, if we were there, what should we do. So dear brothers and sisters, I want us to take our responsibility, not only in our own life, not only in the church, but also in this society. Being a Christian, live out our faith in practice.
1. The blessing from God
Actually when Ruth decided to follow her mother-in-law and God, she didn’t expect great things happen. But, even she didn’t expect that, the blessing from God came upon her. Like the Bible said:” seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness first, and all the things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). When we read the Bible, we will find that in the book of Ruth, Chapters 3 and 4, how God blessed her in her marriage. God bless the one who has faith in Him, and the one who chooses to live out his or her faith in practice. If we continue reading this story, we will find that in the end.
How God blessed Ruth? First, God knew her needs. He gave her daily bread, and gave her a godly husband Boaz, who happened to be rich. There are many young single brothers and sisters. I know we are looking for godly man or godly lady to be as our husband or wife in our life. But from Ruth’s story, we found that, the lady who trusted in God and followed God, and live out her faith in practice, God blessed her and gave her a godly husband, who was also rich. Second, we found that she also had a son by God’s grace. The Bible told us that: the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son, name Obed. He was the grandfather of the king David. Even Ruth’s name was in the genealogy of Jesus, in Matthew 1:5, it tells us that it is such a great blessing from God. So when I read the Book of Ruth, I was really touched by God’s mercy and by God’s love. Because God really cared about Ruth, God cared about her even in the dark time.
If I have much more time, I will introduce you to the background of love. But we have no time. But I will let you know that it was really a dark period at that time. In that darkness period, Ruth experienced such bad troubles in her family. But in the end, we will find that God really blessed them. So the Book of Ruth starts with desperate circumstances and ends with great blessing from God. Even these desperate circumstances helped to fulfill the purposes of God.
If we read Matthew Chapter 1, we will find that these lowly insignificant ladies were in the plan of God for saving the human being. So dear brothers and sisters, from Ruth’s life changing story, we can all be encouraged to trust in God in hard times, when it seems there is no way forward. Try our best to do the right thing, when things are really hard, the blessing will come from God. Like Matthew 6:33 tells us: seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
So dear brothers and sisters, the Bible tells us not only God is just Ruth’s God, He is Naomi’s God, and God is our God. God is the living God, and God is alive, and He is real. So dear brothers and sisters, let’s think about how we can apply the teaching in our life today. First, I want to ask you a question, do we want to experience the life changing adventure? If yes, my second question is: what do we choose today? What will you choose today and tomorrow? God’s desire or our own? Third, what should we do to live out our faith in practice in this week, in this month or in this year? Ruth lived out her faith in practice by following Naomi, taking care of her, by following God, by picking up the leftover grain, and by doing the hard work. What should we do to live out our faith in practice in this week, in this month or in this year? In the end, I want to let us all know that the life changing moment starts from trusting in God, reading his words and doing what it says. And the blessing will come to you. Amen.
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