Be the Switch

A young boy walked into his bedroom one day where he found it to be very dark. He walked back out and told his dad the light in his room wasn’t working. His dad, Mr. Fix-it, full of pride said “No bother”, and he grabbed his tools and a little flashlight and went to his sons bedroom.

The first thing he did was the most obvious: he changed the light-bulb. That didn’t work so he checked the breaker box – flipped all the breakers. That didn’t work so he checked the wiring at the light fixture – All checked out ok. He got out his voltmeter and saw that power was making its way into the wiring. Lightbulb-check. Breaker-check. Wiring-check.

He sat down, scratching his head because he just couldn’t figure it out. In the meantime, Mom walked in the room, flipped the light switch, causing the light to come on. She asked, “Why are y’all sitting here in the dark?” A light switch on a wall releases power to go through the light bulb, thus, illuminating everything in the room. We’re called to be the switch and illuminate the world around us.

A light bulb is no good unless you flip the switch. When a switch is turned off, there is potential, but no product. When a switch is turned on, the potential becomes powerful production. Jesus said to His disciples, “You are the light of the world.” Jesus wants His followers to light up the world! It’s your calling. So let me ask you, are you turned off or are you turned on? Is your life defined by potential without production, or are you shining light into this dark world?

So, get ready for this adventure on how we can plug into the power of God and be the switch that brings light into a very dark world. There is an infinite supply of power. God is a power supply that will never run out. It will never fade. It will never suffer a blackout. The problem is not with the source, the power is with the switch! If you are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, you are plugged into the power source. You just have to flip the switch. If your life feels tuned out and turned off, it’s time to flip the switch and get turned on to the things of God!

If you are going to flip the switch, you are going to have to Realize your Purpose, Recognize the Process, then Release the Power.

  1. Realize your Purpose

You were made to worship God. That is your purpose. Your purpose is to bring honor, glory, and majesty to God. And you can never fulfill your purpose, your potential, until you become the switch that releases the power of God in your life. That is why you are here. Life is not an “eat, drink, and dance for tomorrow we die” experience. You were made to worship God.

You are more than a collection of carbon consuming and expending resources until you die.

You are more than a passenger passing time on this planet. You were made to worship God.

Let’s look at a story that illustrates this, taken from 1 Samuel 1.

“There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim whose name was Elkanah, son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephrathite. He had two wives. The name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other, Peninnah. And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.”

This is the story of one man with two wives. Two women, two wives, with two perspectives on their purpose. And we will dive into this more deeply in a moment, but suffice it to say, one had a temporal perspective, the other an eternal perspective. Though it is a story of two women with two perspectives on their purpose, it is also the story of one man with one purpose.

Look at verse 3, “Now this man used to go up year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts at Shiloh…” Elkanah looked to eternity. He realized his purpose was to worship His God. He had an eternal focus. He had a spiritual focus. He had a singular focus

He had flipped the switch off on the things of the world, and flipped the switch on to the things of heaven. He knew his purpose was to worship.

What defines your life? What direction is the energy flowing? Earthly things or eternal things?

Work or worship? Fun or faith? Good things or godly things? Notice please that worship was a deliberate act of Elkanah’s family. Verse 3 says “year after year” this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord.

Worship was a regular part of his life. In a world that is seeking for a magic answer on how to keep their family together, the Scriptures cry out that a family that “worships together walks together,” and a family that “prays together, stays together.” When you are busy worshipping and praying to God, you take your eyes off your own selfish wants and place them upon the One who will supply all of your needs.

 I want you to see that it was the father, Elkanah, who led the family in worship. He was the initiator. He was the instigator! He led his family to worship. Men, if you want to be the leader in your home, then lead your family to worship. If you want to have a position of responsibility in your home, then carry out your responsibility to be a worshipper. Worship is not just for the weak, and for women, it is for God’s mighty warriors too! You may want to be a man’s man, but I would rather see you be God’s man. And as you become God’s man you will certainly be a man’s man! One man with one purpose. Worship God. Elkanah led in worship and Hannah followed.

Now look at verse 3. Verse 3 introduces us to several new characters. This is a foreshadowing of things to come. For as we progress through this section of scripture you will see that just as surely as Elkanah and his family participated in worship, Eli and his family perverted worship. The results will be amazing as you see that as Elkanah’s family participated in worship, they became heirs to the promises of God, but as Eli and his sons perverted worship, they became heirs to the wrath of God.

Now, perhaps you are thinking. Ok, preacher. Just give me 10 quick steps on how to do this and I will worship God. I have a bargain for you today. I am not going to give you 10 steps, but 1! Be the switch! Turn off your relentless chase for pleasure, power, possessions and position and turn your life to worship God. Flip the switch. Put God first, others second, and yourself last!

It’s so simple! But for your benefit, let me illustrate this more. You must not only Realize your purpose, you must Recognize the Process. If you are going to flip the switch, you must Recognize the Process.

2. Recognize the Process

On most standard light switches, what position is the “off” position? (Down). Okay, so if the off position is down, which position is the “on” position? (Up). So let’s be clear: down is “off,” and “up” is on? Correct?

So “down” means there is potential power, but no actual power, correct? The potential for energy/light is there, but there is no energy or light, correct? The change in position does not change the potential power, but the actual power. The process of flipping the switch changes the outcome. You can be the switch when you stop looking down at the world and look up to heavenly things. So too it is with life. Look at these two women. Let us consider their names.

First there is Provoking Peninnah.

Provoking Peninnah was provided for by her God. God had blessed her with children, in fact verse 4 says she had sons and daughters. But she was also provided for by her husband. He gave her portions of food to feed her children.

But provoking Peninnah was a pest. Peninnah had children, but Hannah did not. And she pestered Hannah. Verse 6 says, “And Hannah’s rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her..” Peninnah was a mother, but she was a mocker. She was a parent, but she was a provoking pest.

Peninnah’s name can mean one of two things. In Hebrew, it means either “coral” or “pearl.” Now there is something interesting about both of these names. One is a source of irritation, the other is birthed through irritation.

In 1991, I was blessed to spend 4 weeks of a College Biology class in Florida, a class called “Biology of the American Subtropics.” As a part of this class we went snorkeling on a reef off the Florida Keys. The reef was made primarily of coral. It was gorgeous! Every color of the rainbow was seen. All kinds of fish and marine life were there.

The coral was beautiful! But while I was snorkeling, enraptured in all the beauty, I lost focus of where I was, and my leg brushed against the coral. Sharp pain went through my leg. Irritation from skin contact with certain species of coral is caused by the animal “stinging” the diver. Irritating toxin is discharged into the skin from small structures on the coral — the mechanism is similar to jellyfish stings. It hurt! It was pretty to look at, but painful to touch! That’s how Peninnah was! She was pretty on the outside, but painful when in contact. She mocked Hannah, she teased Hannah. She irritated Hannah.

The second meaning of her name is “pearl” Pearls are formed inside the shell of certain mollusks as a defense mechanism against a potentially threatening irritant such as a parasite inside the shell, or an attack from outside that injures the mantle tissue. The mollusk creates a pearl sac to seal off the irritation.

Again, a pearl is beautiful and valuable too look at, but it is produced through pain. I don’t know what it was that irritated Peninnah, but I have a guess: Elkanah loved Hannah more than her, even though she had given Elkanah children. And she lashed out! As she was developed through irritation like a pearl through Elkannah’s favoritism, she stung Hannah like a coral, causing irritation in Hannah’s life.

Listen, Peninnah’s life was switched off. She was looking down on the things of the world while she was looking down on Hannah. And her misplaced focus caused by a place of pain caused her to be a person of pain. She was switched off. She was dark. She was powerless.

Holy Hannah

But then there was Hannah. Hannah’s name in Hebrew means “favor,” or “grace.” And though she was barren, she was blessed. Verse 5 says, “But to Hannah he gave a double portion, because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb.” She was favored though she had no children in her family. She was graced!

Verse 6 says, “And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.” When you are hurting, there is nothing worse than constant irritation to that wound. Hannah was ridiculed, but not just once or twice. She was ridiculed year after year.

But I want you to see, that a broken heart did not keep Hannah from being holy. She was switched on. She was plugged in. She knew her place. She understood the process: Prayer plugs you into the power of God and releases His power in your life!

Let me state the process as plainly as I can: Pain is designed to push you away from the temporal and towards the eternal. Pain is designed to make you recoil from the world and return to God. Pain is designed to help you realize the need to switch off from the things of this world and return to God. Pain drives you to prayer to plug into God’s power.

Go back with me to the coral reef. When my leg was stung by the coral, I did not leave my leg there, saying, “Wow…this is wonderful. I’d like some more please.” I pulled back. I switched positions. I recoiled. Pain pressed me back to my purpose. My purpose in the water was not to touch the coral; it was to look at the coral. Pain put me back in the proper position.

Friend, I know that you are hurting today. Some are hurting emotionally, some are hurting physically, some are hurting financially. My fleshly desire is to pray for the removal of your pain, but my spirit tells me to pray that the purpose of your pain be fully revealed. Recoil from the things of this world and return to the things of God. That is why you are here. That is your purpose. That is your calling.

Pain is not the absence of God any more than prosperity is the presence of God. Pain is a warning light on the dashboard of your life beckoning you to draw closer to God. I cannot say it strongly enough: pain is a grace gift of God designed to press you into the presence of God! Holy Hannah realized this, and she recognized the process was pressing her through prayer into the Presence of Her God.

3. Release the Power

Long before Paul ever wrote the words, Holy Hannah realized that when we are weak, God is strong. Holy Hannah recognized that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. In her affliction she offered her petition.

Verse 11, “She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.” In her affliction she offered her petition. Despair led to prayer. She was turned on. Her eyes, her attention, her focus was not on the problem, but the God who solves problems! She didn’t try to solve her problem, she went to the God who solves problems.

In verse 11, she vowed a vow. “God, if you graciously grant me a child, I will graciously give him to you.” Hannah did what a worshipping woman should do. She went to war in prayer. When Hannah felt down, she knew it was time to look up! She stood from the table and went to the temple to pray. She flipped the switch. She took the things of this earth that were hurting her right into the presence of the God who would help her.

When trouble comes knocking at your door, start knocking on heaven’s door! Be the switch. Plug into prayer. Don’t make prayer your last resort! Start with prayer, continue with prayer, praying without ceasing! When your family faces a crisis turn to the Lord in prayer. Seek out His power and walk in His promises.

Notice how Hannah began her prayer in verse 11, “Oh, LORD Almighty…” This is only the second time in Scripture that this name of God is used. The first time is also in our text, in verse 3. The phrase literally means “Yaweh of Armies” or “Yaweh of Hosts.” She went to the Lord of all Lords and the General of all Generals for her strength!

In the midst of her pain, she considered the power of God, and as she considered the power of God, she plugged in through prayer, and when she plugged in through prayer to God she received a blessing from the man of God In verse 17 Eli said, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” Notice what happened to Hannah. She came to worship with a problem, but she left with peace. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Php. 4:6, 7)

Hannah made her prayers and petitions known despite her difficult circumstances and God was faithful and just and brought her the peace that she needed! What was it that brought peace? It was the grace of God!  Verse 18 has a wonderful word play. “She said, ‘May your servant find favor in your eyes.’” The word “favor” is the same word as “grace.” “May I, Grace, find grace in your eyes.”

Listen to me now. The promises of God are rooted in the grace of God. God did not owe Hannah a son. Hannah did not have the right to demand a son from God. Hannah’s prayer was not the purchase price paid for a son. God graciously choose to freely give the gift of a son to Hannah. Grace was given to the woman of grace!

Some of you need to be the switch today. You are hurting. Your heartaches. You long for something more. Your life is barren. Here’s the good news: though God does not owe you anything, though you do not have the right to demand anything, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to bring light into your life so that you could flip the switch and become the Light of the World. It’s grace. It’s His gift for you! You can come to the altar today downcast and leave with Joy. You can come to the altar today with nothing and leave with God’s everything.

Look what happened in verse 18, “then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. Early the next day they arose and worshipped before the Lord and then went back to their home.” She came to worship in the midst of her despair, but she left, still worshipping, an elevated and transformed woman!

That’s what grace does. It transforms despair into victory. And now, she could eat and rejoice knowing that God in His grace had answered her prayer. She had flipped the switch. No longer focused on earth, her eyes were fixed on heaven.

Verse 19 continues, “Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife and the Lord remembered her.” The promise-keeping God never forgets His promises. He carries His plans out to completion, not because we merit or deserve them, but because He is a God of grace. “So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son and she named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for Him.” And in verse 27, she presents Samuel at the Temple, “For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore, I have lent him to the LORD.”

It would be easy to misunderstand this message. It would be easy for you to walk away here today and say, “My life hurts. If I pray, I will prosper.” That is not the message, dear soul. The message is not, “If I weep enough, I will get what I want.” It would be easy to think, “Hannah hurt; God helped. I will do the same.” Please, do not be deceived.

The message today is not one of “how to petition God to perfect my life.” The message is “how to position your life in the presence of God.” I am not saying, “Flip a switch and you will get what you need.” I am saying, “Flip a switch and you will be where you need.” Flip a switch. Move in God’s direction, and there you will find His presence in your life.

I leave you today with two big take-aways.

  • God is willing to close off the thing you desire most, until the thing you desire most is to be close to Him. Notice please, “c-l-o-s-e” is used twice in this sentence. One is a verb. The other is an adjective. God is willing to “close” that’s the verb, that’s the doing, that’s the action, off the thing that you desire most, so that the thing you desire most is to be “close,” that’s the adjective to Him. God does the action to get you in the right position. Flip the switch. Go from “off” to “on.”
  • Give graciously back to God whatever God graciously gives to you. If it’s health, give it back to God. If it’s time, give it back to God. If it’s money, give it back to God. If it’s talent, give it back to God. Flip the switch. Realize that His grace in your live is designed to give Him the glory.


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