Hannah - Part 1
Hi. This is Ross Paterson, one of the leaders of FieldPartner.
In this session, I want to deal with something slightly parallel and different. And it is this: it's about ordinary people making a difference. It's a passion that we have in FieldPartner. A passion that we have in the other organizations in which I'm involved, that we understand this very critical factor: That God uses ordinary people.
Of course, there are some unusual, exceptional, special, whatever people: God uses them too. But you and I, who were just regular Joe Bloggs or whatever you want to call it: We have the enormous privilege of being ordinary people, yet serving a very unordinary God. Now to do this, and to get into it I'm going to speak from 1 Samuel 1, which is the story of Hannah.
Because Hannah, as we'll see, was not just ordinary, she was minus five ordinary. In other words, she had a lot of things going against her, but she managed by walking with the Lord by His grace to produce Samuel, who arguably was the most powerful, well, most important man on earth in his day.
So let's get into Hannah and read from 1 Samuel 1:
V1: “There was a man named Elkanah, son of Jeroham from Ramathaim in the mountains of Ephraim.”
We'll skip a little bit of the background there. Now here's the bit:
V2-5: “Elkanah had two wives, (Not recommended. In fact, not permitted at all!) Elkanah had two wives named Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah had children but Hannah had none. Every year Elkanah left his town of Ramah and went up to Shiloh to worship the Lord and to offer sacrifices to the Lord. Shiloh was where Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, served as priests of the Lord. When Elkanah offered sacrifices, he always gave a share of meat to his wife Penninah and her sons and daughters. But Elkanah always gave a special share of the meat to Hannah, because he loved Hannah and because the Lord had kept her from having children.”
Okay, here is Hannah, her husband Elkanah has two wives. One of them has abundant children, and one of them – Hannah – doesn't. Now I'm told that Peninnah means “coral” as in the stuff in the sea. If you've ever been around coral, my wife and I have had the privilege of living in Asia for many years and have a couple of times (I guess) had whole days on Malaysian islands. Once very, very generously given to us free, which since we had five children by the end of the first day I realized that if we were paying for it we would be in serious trouble. It would have been a one day holiday!
But on those beautiful Malaysian islands, if you go swimming you will meet coral. Many of you may have done that in this day of the traveller. And one of the things you know about coral, is 1: it's beautiful in its original form, 2: It's dangerous because if you’re in amongst much coral if you get swept against it you're going to get cut. And it seems to me that's Penninah.
Penninah is quite nasty actually, because it says “Peninnah (in verse 6) would tease Hannah”. Actually some of the Bible’s other translations make it a lot stronger than “tease”- “Would tease Hannah and upset her because the Lord had made her unable to have children.” Well you know exactly what's going on there. You know that Peninnah was really rubbing it in, saying “I'm The good wife. I got the kids. You enjoy your special portion, because you haven't got any kids.”
Now let me just say I realize this is a sensitive subject, because some of you may very much want kids but have not had any, or not even be married, and that's kind of a pain in your heart. So let me just say that's not what I'm talking about. I'm drawing a spiritual parable there. May the Lord bless you and fulfill the desires of your heart.
So anyway, what we have here is Peninnah (coral) has children. Hannah (which means grace) does not. That's something wrong there, something's going on. But it did say in the bit we read out just now that “the Lord kept her from having children” (v5).
So here is where I'm starting in this series: Here is Hannah who is Grace, who is walking with the Lord as we're going to see, who does I don't say everything right, but is a good and godly God-follower, and a good wife, and she has none. And so, in that society, very different society - in that early society - her worth as a woman, as a wife, would be seriously challenged. In other words: she stands for me, as not just ordinary, but an ordinary and challenged kind of person. She stands for me as the kind of person who longs to make a difference for God, but it's just not working for her.
And that's why I wanted (in this series that we are going to do) a series of little 10-minute talks. I want to dwell on this. It's passionately important to me that none of us say, “I’m too ordinary. God could never use me.” If we walk with the Lord, if we put ourselves in his hands, if we come to him-if you're familiar with that strange English expression “warts and all”, then God's going to use us.
And here's something else I want to tell you right in the beginning: that God often uses the most ordinary people in extraordinary ways. And the very simple reason for that is this: that he gets the glory. If I'm kind of super special, anointed - I don’t want to say Cambridge graduate because I am - but you know what I mean, and I do something for God then everybody says, “Well that's pretty obvious isn't it, it’s because he's special.”
No, no! We're ordinary people. We're just very ordinary people. But if we walk alright with the Lord, if we trust him to make the difference, he really will. Now I just want to say this right at the beginning: we're all Hannah’s in one way or another. We're all struggling with something. If you're not, do come and lay hands on me sometime, because you must live in a world of your own or be very special.
We've all got battles and struggles. We all feel, “I can't do this.” When I was a student at Cambridge (since I mentioned that) let me say that when I went to the Christian Union which incidentally rejoiced in the name of CICCU (Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, slightly better than Oxford which is OICCU.) But when I went to CICCU, I saw these amazing Christians and I thought, “They're the leaders, they're the special people, they're the amazing people. I'm just ordinary Joe Bloggs.”
Now I'm not saying for a minute, that they weren't. They're probably mighty men and women of God - if they're still alive because I'm 74 - they may have gone to be with Jesus. But I never thought that God could use me in any special way. How wrong could I be? And it wasn't because I was special, it's because God did things in my life - essentially a contract where he said, “son give me your life. Not just “let me be Saviour, but let me be Lord.” But also because I was filled with his Spirit.
So when those things were in place, God revealed to me a totally different call on my life: Which was to cross-cultural mission to work in China and amongst the Chinese people. I'm recording this actually in Taipei in my office here. Every time in this twelve-story tall building, I do believe I'm the only Caucasian in the building. That was God's call, and I've made a difference there, and I want to say to you in this first session, “please look to the Lord in hope, and know however you may feel, Hannah's got a message for you.”
So I'm going to shut down there, and ask you a question: “Please do hope, and we're going to talk through in this series, in these 10 minute little talks, we're going to talk through lessons from Hannah as to how that could come to pass. So stay with us, and when you're ready, listen to the next one.
“Lord thank you, that you use ordinary people and that way you get the glory. Lord, Spirit of God, give us faith and trust that that's what you're going to do in our lives, I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
See you next time.
Hannah - Part 2
Hannah, in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah as an example of an ordinary person; I said yesterday, a minus five person ordinary; minus five – so not even the ordinary, ordinary, but less than ordinary, who really made a difference. And I quoted first of all from 1 Samuel 1:1, how “there was a man called Elkanah, and Elkanah had two wives: One was Peninnah” (who I told you yesterday means “coral” and when you hit her you got scratched. She may have been beautiful, but you got cut when you hit like Hannah did. She was the one that made life really, really, difficult for dear Hannah). And I said Hannah means ‘grace’. Now grace should be blessed, right? That's what we were told. Grace should have the children, and maybe coral wouldn't, but it was the other way around.
What I want to use Hannah for is an example of what it means to be an ordinary person who walks with Jesus. Please, please, hear me. That doesn't mean to say everything goes well. In fact, in spiritual warfare, it can mean the opposite. And I shared with you that because Hannah pressed through with God, (that's what this series is going to be about, so I really, really want you to watch it) it's going to be about ordinary people, who because they laid hold of God, really did become difference makers. And what I'm saying to you is that not every ordinary person, even those who know Jesus, will make a difference because there are things we need to learn and understand if we want to make a real difference. And I'm going to take you through those things, as this series unwinds. This is only talk number two. There will probably be about ten, by the time I finish, because Hannah is so, so, important. So do stay with me and press through. I’m trying to make it easy for you by doing it in 10 minute sessions. You can listen to two or three at the same time or not.
Where does it relate to cross-cultural mission? Because FieldPartner International is a cross cultural mission platform. Because when we know all about cross-cultural work – if we ever get there – when we know all about this, all about that, or all about the other, we still have to lay hold of God. I think of a guy, lovely friend, who was helping us in China ministry, he was in quite an important role. And he said to me one day, “Ross, I can't do this, I want to go home.” and I said, “X (he’s a lovely brother so I don’t want to mention his name.) X, you need to lay hold of Jesus.” and he said “I don't know how to do that.” It's not just because we are ordinary that we can make a difference. It is because we're ordinary, and we lay ahold of Jesus, and he lays hold of us, and he makes a difference.
So, I mentioned yesterday that as I said, Coral (Peninnah) had children, Hannah had none. But then I went on to share how it did not finish that way. How dear, dear, Hannah (Grace) she gave birth to Samuel – who I want to say, as I said yesterday, is the most important guy in his generation. He was the guy that God told to appoint Saul, King Saul as king. He was the guy that fired King Saul under the instructions of God. He was the guy that went to King Saul, and said, “You’re fired,” because of Saul's rebellion. He was the guy, that even while Saul was alive, God sent to ordain David as king, and went to see Jesse’s children, “Not this one, not this one, not this one, yep! This one – King David.” He just moved with God, old Samuel, and Hannah was his mother.
But also, it says later in chapter 2, actually it says this:
“The Lord was gracious to Hannah and she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.”
Wow, quality and quantity. She had five kids. I think it means three sons including Samuel, but maybe it was six, I'm not quite clear on that. Not only did she have this amazing man, Samuel. But she had four other children: two sons, two daughters, apart from Samuel. So she had quality and quality, she really was a difference-maker.
I want to give a parallel example, if I may. There's a lovely book called ‘On This Day’, what it does is it gives you (I don't even know if it's still in print, but I got a copy some time ago). It gives you examples of ordinary people who really made a difference. Or some extraordinary people who didn't make a difference, because they walked away from Jesus. And this is one of them. I'm quoting from “On This Day”, get it if you can.
“What a difficult life! She was the 25th child in a dissenter’s family.” (One among 25 children. Though I hasten to say ‘dissenter’ means at the time a non-Church of England or Catholic believer, so I’m quite sure this person's mum, though she had 25 children, her husband only had one wife. So let's carry on.) “Though brilliant”, (and my question is, ‘Who was she?’) “though brilliant, she procured little education. Though strong-willed, she lived in a male-dominated age. She married an older man and bore him 19 children.” Wow, slacking! One of 25, but she only had 19. “But nine of them died. Her house burned up, her barn fell down, her health failed, and she lived with a wolf at the door.” Now that's ordinary. Her house burned up her barn fell down her health failed and she lived in the wolf at the door. “She was married in 1689 and her husband began pastoring in dreary little Epworth in 1697.” If by any chance you’re from Epworth in England, forgive me; I don't even know where Epworth is. But anyway in 1697 they started pastoring there and pastored for forty years.
Here are some quotes. “Her husband’s salary was so small, and he was so bad at managing it, that he finished in a debtor’s prison, leaving this woman to fend for herself. She and her husband were strong-willed and argumentative. Her husband once prayed for the King, and she didn't say ‘Amen’! And when he said, ‘why?’ she said, ‘because I don't think he should be king of England.’ At which point he said, ‘then you and I must part,’ by which he meant, ‘if we have two kings, we must have two beds!’ So they separated, only to be reunited when the King died, but I hope it wasn't too long – well for their sake, not for the King! They disagreed about her ministry because her Bible lessons drew more listeners than his sermons.” Whoops! He's the pastor in the male-dominated age, she's getting more listeners than he has.
“She gave birth to a daughter in 1705, and the nurse who'd been celebrating because it was an election in the country the night before, slept so heavily that she rolled on the baby and smothered it and killed it. What pain for the mum, who has just carried that child for nine months. She herself was often bed-fast (confined to bed) having to ask her many children to help. Some of her children were so wayward (that means naughty or worse) that she called them ‘a constant affliction’. Her brother arrived on the scene and promised a sizable gift, but then he disappeared mysteriously and never was heard of again.” (Better, I would think, never to be promised a gift, than to have a gift and not get it.) “Finally, on July 25th, 1731, her husband had an accident; her husband was thrown from the wagon, which injured him, and he was never well for the rest of his life.”
Wow! A difficult life for an ordinary person. Well, let me tell you who she was: she was Susanna Wesley, the wife of husband Samuel and she gave birth to John and Charles Wesley, and they changed not just England, but they changed – in many ways – America at the time, and did many other mighty things for God. This woman – very ordinary, many health battles for her and her husband. Argued with her husband, slept in a different bed from her husband for a while because they didn’t agree on the king. In poverty, husband
in prison at one point etc, etc. She gave birth to John and Charles Wesley. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, which in my view, in its early form, was one of the most powerful, spiritual moments in the world. He also had great impact in the United States. Amazing things. She gave birth to those two young men, amongst others.
Let me give you a key as to why this very ordinary woman Susanna Wesley made a difference. It is said that someone came to visit them, knocked on the door, and one of the kids said, “you cannot talk to my mother because she spends an hour a day praying for her children, and that's what she's doing right now.” Do you get the key? She walked with God through such difficulties and really made a difference.
So can I just share this with you, brothers and sisters: whether it's Hannah, or its Susanna Wesley, or it's you and me, whatever our situation may be now, we can, and should make a real difference, by laying hold of the Lord.
All right, that's the end of talk number two. Join me for the next one, either now or when you're ready. Because I want you to see, that no matter what your situation, no matter how ordinary you may be, the divine Transformer, Jesus, can change our lives and make us able to make a difference.
Source: “On This Day In Christian History.” 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes. By Robert Morgan. Thomas Nelson.