This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to fill in at First Baptist Church, Muleshoe, TX. Both the pastor, Dr. Stacy Conners, and the music minister had left town to go to the state convention in Austin. Dr. Sadler, of the religion department at Wayland, had been contacted by the church and he gave them my name. It has been a long time since I had the chance to go and preach somewhere, so I was a little nervous. But overall, the morning went very well. I was a little shaky on the ending of my sermon mainly from nerves. I was asked just before the service to be completely in charge of the invitation and I've not done that before.
The biggest surprise of the morning came as the music leader was inviting everyone to come back that evening and hear Dr. Franklin again. Again??? Nobody told me about being needed for Sunday night! So, I got to spend the afternoon preparing another sermon. But this entry is about the morning service, so I'll give you the Sunday night sermon in the next blog entry.
Below is the sermon I preached in Muleshoe on Sunday morning. It is in mostly manuscript form with a little bit of outline in places where I was extemporaneous.
TITLE: The Well-Ordered Life
SCRIPTURE: Luke 12:22-34
(Veteran Thank you)
Before I say anything else, I want to, in honor of veteran’s day last Friday, say a word of thanks to all the veteran’s that are here today. It seems apparent to me that far too many in my generation fail to give due honor and respect to those men and women who have served to maintain the freedom that we take for granted. I know that without your faithful service and the service of your fellow service men and women, I would not be able to stand here today and freely express my faith to a room full of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank you.
I’m going to looking at Luke 12:22-34 and I want to talk to you today about what I call a “Well Ordered Life”.
(Introduction – bird story)
I was watching the weather channel this morning and as I saw that temperatures in the Northeast had finally begun to dip and feel like it’s supposed to this time of year, I was reminded of a story I heard as while back:
A little bird was flying south for the winter. It got so cold that it froze up and fell to the ground in a large field. While it was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some manure on it. As it lay there in the pile of manure, it began to realize how warm it was. The manure was actually thawing him out! He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the little bird singing and came to investigate. Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of manure, and promptly dug him out – and then ate him. The morals of the story are:
1. Not everyone who drops manure on you is your enemy.
2. Not everyone who digs you out of a pile of manure is your friend.
3. When you’re in a pile of manure, keep your mouth shut.
Have you ever been in place like that bird, where it felt like someone had dumped a pile of manure on your head? There have been a few days this fall where I was definitely there. And yet, if I truly believe that God is in control, I know that all things are working together for my good. But its hard not to worry about those things.
As I mentioned, I’ve entitled today’s sermon “A Well-Ordered Life.” I called it this because, besides borrowing the name of an important mathematical principle, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that if we get things in the right order we can be free of those daily worries.
Read Luke 12:22-34
(I. Put away worry)
The first point, the first lesson we must learn is to Put Away Worry.
I’ve always been taught that anytime you read a passage of scripture that starts with “Therefore” you must ask what that “Therefore” is there for. This passage fits within a larger context of a teaching of Jesus. Just prior, Jesus has been approached by a young man who has asked him to tell his brother to divide his father’s inheritance with him. Jesus’ responded with a lesson on greed. Jesus always does an amazing job of addressing the true issue of someone’s question. By Him seeing the heart, its like listening to one side of a telephone conversation…
I tried to listen to Jesus’ teaching through the ears of this man who just stood up. He had sat in the crowd listening to Jesus, learning about how the disciples are to be generous and to give freely without asking. I imagine him thinking, “Yeah!, Why not? My brother should be generous to me. He should be giving me my share.” So he stands up and vocalizes his wants. So, Jesus, reading the mans true motivation, that of greed, tells the parable of the rich fool who, seeing his great harvest, planned to build bigger and bigger barns and bigger storehouses to hold it all. And verse 20 gives us the point of the story, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” That is the end of the lesson to the crowd. Now he turns to talk to his disciples. Jesus just addressed one end of a lesson on possessions, don’t hoard for yourself. But His disciples were not guilty of gaining a wealth for themselves, they had left all to follow Jesus. What was their concern. . .
(A lesson on greed turns to a lesson on worry)
The greater concern for his disciples was whether they would have possessions enough to even survive. Where would the next meal come from, who would mend their clothes? Jesus uses a comparative analogy to make his point about worry.
Who does he compare his disciples to. . .
What is the comparison? They don’t build barns but they are fed
Aren’t we worth more than Ravens
What is the comparison? They don’t labor or spin, yet they are clothed
What is the comparison? They chase after such things, yet we are not Pagans.
Let me ask you something. How do these same worries rear their ugly heads today. I mean, do your worries or my worries look anything like those that Jesus addressed. I thought I’d answer that question by doing a little research. I went to the Gallup Poll Website and pulled up the following numbers
(see attached sheets for worry numbers)
Yeah, we still worry about survival. I’ll admit is seems more complicated but that is still the fundamental worry and so Jesus’ words are as relevant as ever. Look at the birds, the flowers, and trust in God’s power.
How do we stop worrying? Let me give you three suggestions
1. Look beyond the present
(Horizon Speech from Linear Algebra)
2. Recognize God’s Sovereignty
3. Order your life properly
(II. Prioritize your relationship with God)
This brings me to the second lesson we must learn and that is to Prioritize our relationship to God. How does Jesus say all these things will be taken care of: “Seek first the kingdom of God” and what? “All these things will be given to you.”
So, I have two questions: Why is it so important to prioritize your relationship to God? And How do we do it.
First question, Why? Other than, because Jesus just told us to, Why?
Why? Well, the answer reminds me of …
A group of friends went deer hunting and paired off in twos for the day. That night one of the hunters returned alone, staggering under an eight-point buck.
"Where's Harry?" he was asked.
"Harry had a stroke of some kind. He's a couple of miles back up the trail."
"You left Harry laying there, and carried the deer back?"
"Well," said the hunter, "I figured no one was going to steal Harry."
(Illus: Architect or Computer Programmer)
Now, How do we prioritize?
The simplest answer is you just spend time with God. I found this list of what we spend our time doing:
(Illus: My utmost for his Highest)
The University of Northern Iowa once offered a general art course that included a most unusual exercise. The teacher brought to class a shopping bag filled with lemons and gave a lemon to each class member. The assignment was for the student to keep his lemon with him day and night--smelling, handling, examining it. Next class period, without warning, students were told to put their lemons back in the bag. Then each was asked to find his lemon. Surprisingly, most did so without difficulty.
It’s like how I know my wife and what she’ll say when I come home on bath night for the kids and say that I am going to go play golf.
As a mathematician, specifically, a Numerical Analyst, for the big decisions I need more specifics. If I have a decision to make in my life, I truly want to know God’s plan. I doubt myself when it comes to interpreting his will for my life so I want to know a method, a procedure, or an algorithm, if you will. Let me propose to you a bit of Christian Decision Making. This is modified from Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. It is an incredible study, and a great book if you’ve never read it.
Any way, the will of God is communicated to us through four means:
1. Holy Word – study and meditation of God’s word
2. Prayer – Direct communication through the Holy Spirit
3. Other Believers – through fellowship with the body and their wisdom/advice
4. Circumstances – through the events of our life, we may look at where God is working and join him.
(Explain how I’ll use this to decide on the new Sunday School Teacher position)
(III. Prepare for your Treasure)
The final lesson I want us to observe from this passage is to prepare for your treasure. Jesus says “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”
(The following is from JesusWalk Bible Study Series, #56 Winning the War against Worry, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
The reason we don't have to be afraid is because the Father gives us the kingdom. The Greek verb is a common one, didomi, " 'give something to someone,' 'give' in the sense 'grant, bestow, impart."
What does that mean? What is this kingdom he is giving us?
• The full inheritance that belongs to the King,
• The full attention that is the right of the royal family,
• The full privilege of reigning alongside the King,
• The full provision of every need that we have,
• The full pardon for all our sins against the King and his kingdom,
• The full love and favor of the King himself,
• and a whole lot more that we scarcely understand.
Wow! We're struggling with bills and food, and he bestows upon us his entire Kingdom in which all the riches and glory of God dwell. In the Kingdom is the answer for every need we have or will ever have. We focus on the need rather than the Kingdom and its glory which is the abundant, overflowing answer to the need!
But we're not finished yet. There is one more word in this sentence to consider. The word translated "pleased" is Greek eudokeo "be well pleased, take delight." God doesn't grudgingly share his Kingdom with us. He doesn't do it because he promised and can't bring himself to go back on his word. Jesus says that he is delighted to give us the Kingdom. It is the Father's joy, his abundant pleasure to bestow upon us his kingdom. He has been waiting from all eternity to do this, and now is overjoyed to do it.
Ironically, God is committed to free will, so much so that we will give us the desire of our heart. Now desires fall into two categories: Our will or His will. Now we may desire money, life/survival, clothes, social status, education, etc. But all these can be obtained by Our will or His will. It is our motivation that is the difference. If we seek our own desires, if we desire to fulfill ourselves, then we will receive only that. Our self. And when trouble comes, those things will fade away and we will be left with nothing but our self, alone and UNFULFILLED and EMPTY. We will live eternity with only our self separated from God and from true fulfillment.
But, if we live for God and his plan, we will be FILLED beyond our comprehension and live eternity with God and filled with his joy. I want to be a part of that Kingdom.
If you’ve never joined that kingdom, if you are empty and these worries plague you, You will find peace today if you accept Jesus gift of salvation. Jesus is not bribing you with heaven and peace, but giving you a chance to part of his kingdom out of love for your soul. Come today, and put away worry, put God in charge, and prepare for your treasure.