Sunday, May 08, 2005

Sarah: Life Can Be Tough

Intro: Today is Mother's Day – I hope none of you forgot it.

  1. I remember some of my early mother days.

  2. Most of those times focused on church – will the oldest mother stand, will the youngest mother stand, will the mother who came the greatest distance. I never won one of those competition. I don't remember my mother ever winning one of those competitions.

  3. It has been a long time since I have been in a church that had those kinds of competition. For some I expect it was embarrassing – it probably was a good tradition to drop.

Read  Ephesians 6:1-4


T.S. Celebration of a special day for mothers goes back to ancient Greece.

  1. Throughout the ancient world the Ides of March (the formal name for the 15th of March) was used to celebrate motherhood.

  2. England had a history of “Mothering Sunday” - a Sunday in the middle of lent when, if a child returned to their “mother church”, the church where they were baptized, they and their mother were given presents.

  3. In the US, it was the daughter of Anna Jarvis (also named Anne Jarvis) who campaigned for a day to celebrate mothers.

  4. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson finally signed a bill recognizing Mother's Day as a national holiday.

  5. Some how it seems appropriate on this day to look at a famous mother from scripture. The most famous mother associated with Abraham.

  1. Sarah was a troubled woman

(Ill.) I occasionally have been accused of cheating at cards. It usually happens when I am ahead. Or when I win. The catch is, I don't cheat. And when I am accused of cheating, it is really unfair. Really unfair. For sometimes, it seems like our whole world is unfair.

    1. Sarah's life was like that.

    2. First she is moved with her husband to Ur, then her husband takes her further into Palestine and into Egypt. No record is made of her opinion, there is no indication that she had anything to say.

    3. She gets to Egypt and is told to lie – tell Pharaoh that she was Abraham's wife. Then a few years later, she is told to it again. It was different king, it was a different place – but it happened again. In effect, her husband had pushed her aside. It was not fair.

    4. Life was also difficult because she had no children. She'd laughed when (at 90) God had promised her children. Then she plotted with with her maid to let her husband have children. And she did – and it was not fair.

    5. But once she realized that Hagar, her maid, was going to be a mother, she found her emotions backfiring on her – she became jealous. Not surprisingly, it was too much. She threw Hagar out of her household.

    6. Life was difficult for Sarah. Life was unfair for Sarah – yet that is not how we remember her.

(Ill.) At this point in my sermon, I usually like to include some kind of illustration to break up the conversation just a bit. But all the illustrations that I found focused on mom as a good influence; mom as a strong person; mom as a spiritual leader. But that was not Sarah – at least at this point in the story. Sarah is her own illustration. Sometimes life is tough. Sometimes life is unfair. We have all had times like that – and we don't need another illustration to remind us.

  1. Sarah was a blessed woman

    1. Sarah's life was unfair – but that is not how we remember her.

    2. She was blessed when at 100 years of age she gave birth to her I son Isaac.

    3. Sarah's life was full of grief, but in the midst of that grief, she was blessed

(Ill.) Sometimes life's hurt can really be of a great help. It is said that a skill ear, nose, and throat doctor was getting ready for an operation. In his last visit with the patient before the start of surgery he said, “I may hurt you, but I will not injure you.” How often the great Physician speaks to us the same message if we would only listen! Richer life, more abundant health for every child of His, is His only purpose.i

    1. God uses life to shape us and make us into the people he wants us to be. What seems like unfairness to us, is God using his spiritual scaple to form us into His own image.

(Appl.) Shortly after I became a Christian I was taught to share my faith with a small tract called, “The Four-Spiritual Laws.” Those of you that have heard of the Four Spiritual Laws know that the first law is that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” It was a lesson that Sarah had to learn – it is a lesson that we need to learn. God does love us; God does have a wonderful plan for our life.

    1. Sarah's blessing was demonstrated in another way as well. You see, Sarah's name was not always Sarah – she started out as Sarai. God was going to change Abram's name to Abraham. At the same time, Sarai was renamed to Sarah. The names are very similar – “Sarai” means “my princess” - indicating the value that Abraham placed on her (though he showed it in strange ways). Sarah means princess – she no longer was merely of value to Abraham, but was now a princess in her own right. Crowned such by the God himself.

  1.  Sarah was a faithful woman

    1. Sarah was not only blessed, she was also a faithful woman.

    2. Turn with me, for a minute to Hebrews 11. This chapter is known as the “Faith Chapter”. It represents the “Hall of Fame” for those who had demonstrated faith in God.

    3. Take a minute to read through this chapter. There is only one woman mentioned in this whole list – it is Sarah.

    4. Sarah is remembered for her faith.

Conclusion: Life can be tough at times.

  1. Though we have focused on the life of one the more famous women of the Bible, life can be tough at times for all of us.

  2. There are times that it gets us warn down.

  3. But in the midst of those times we can also experience God's blessing. We may not see it at the time, but we can know it is there.

  4. And like Sarah, we can remain faithful even in the midst of a difficult life.

iTan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Commitment: A Believer's Signature

Intro: This week as I was driving along in the car, I saw a Wegman's tractor-trailer rig in front of me.

  1. On that back door was a small sign. I was so excited that I had Sandra pull out a piece of scrap paper and write down what it said.

  2. It read, “Committed to service and safety.”

  3. Now my mind works a bit strange, as some of you know. And I got wondering. Is that truck really committed to “service and safety.” I doubt it – the truck has no idea what it is doing.

  4. Was it the driver – maybe at some level. But I doubt that he had given that sign second thought.

  5. Well, maybe is was the board of trustees. They probably have nothing against “service and safety”, but committed to it – I doubt it. They meet quarterly to make decisions – but I doubt that “service and safety” are part of their meetings.

Tran. Our faith requires that we make commitments.
Read Genesis 14:13-24

Late one December, an elementary school principal said to his teachers: “Let’s all write our New Year’s Resolutions about how we can be better teachers, and I’ll put them on the staff bulletin board. In that way, we can be mutually supportive in our efforts to keep those resolutions.” The teachers agreed, and when the resolutions were posted, they all crowded around the bulletin board to read them. One of the young teachers in the group suddenly went into a fit of anger. She said, “He didn’t put up my resolution. It was one of the first ones in. He doesn’t care about me. That just shows what it’s like around here.” On and on she ranted and raved. The principal, who overheard this from his office was mortified. He hadn’t meant to exclude her resolution. Quickly rummaging through the papers on his desk, he found it and immediately went to the bulletin board and tacked it up. The resolution read: “I resolve not to let little things upset me anymore.” Resolution, but no commitment!

T.S. Genesis 14 makes it clear that our faith requires a commitment to three things.

  1. First, we need a commitment to our family.

    1. You remember that we left Lot choosing the Jordan river valley and leaving Abram with the mountain range sitting between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean.

    2. But Lot was not done interfering with Abraham's life. He chose the Jordan River valley – and there were a group of four kings that also wanted this rich, frtile land. And they came to get it. Including Lot and all his possessions.

    3. And that is where today's story begins.

    4. It would have been easy for Abram to sit back and do nothing.

(Ill.) Aristotle once said, “Men regard it as their right to return evil for evil—and, if they cannot, feel they have lost their liberty.” It would have very easy to just let Lot go.i

    1. But Abram's commitment was not capable of revenge. He had to do what he could to protect and rescue Lot from his captors. So with 318 “trained” men he sets out to do just that.

    2. And he succeeds – look at verse 16 - “He recovered all the goods and brought back his relative Lot and his possessions, together with the women and the other people.”

(Appl.) Commitment will cost us. It means taking those things that are valuable to us. Abram is willing to risk his people, he is willing to risk his possessions, he is willing to risk himself in order to honor the commitments he has to his family. Commitments cost. We, like Abram need to be willing to pay the cost.

  1. We need a commitment to our principles.

    1. Along with Lot, Abram also recovered the goods and possessions of the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah.

    2. And the kings did what seemed like a fair thing. They told Abram to let their people return, but that he could keep all the goods.

    3. Abraham had accomplished what he set out to do. He had no need of Sodom's or Gomorrah's possessions.

    4. Abram had principles that would not allow him to accept their offer.

(Ill.) There is a story told about Grover Cleveland when he was a boy. Their neighbor had a hen that had the nasty habit of laying its eggs outside of the hen house and too often the egg would land on the Cleveland side of the property land. Grover Cleveland insisted upon returning those eggs. He began early in his life to give proof of the honesty that marked him as a man and a future President of the United States. Faithfulness to high principles in such little things leads to honesty in matters of greater importance.ii It was true for Grover Cleveland, it was true for Abram, and it is true for us.

    1. Abram had principles. He lived by those principles. He let those principles guide his life – even when it meant it getting less.

(Appl.) Let me ask you a question. What are the principles that you not be willing to give up whatever the cost? What are the principles that stand at the center of our life? What are the principles that stand at the center of your faith? My guess is that those principles will not be challenged today or tomorrow or even this week. But they will be, someday they will be.

Take time this week to identify those principles that are central to who you are. What parts of your faith cannot be sold? What are the principles that guide you life whatever the cost? If you journal, put it there. If not, take a blank page and after writing down those principles, put into your Bible.

  1. We need a commitment to God

    1. Being committed to your family or being committed to your principles are good things. But they are not enough.

    2. There must also must be a commitment to God.

    3. When Abram returns from rescuing Lot, he meets a very strange character – Melchizedek.

(Ill.) Melchizedek's name means “King of Righteousness.” He is the king of Salem – which means “peace.” So it is safe to say, the “King of Righteousness is the King of peace.” He is also called the “priest of God Most High.”

    1. Melchizedek's name is used 12 times in the Bible – but only twice in the OT. He is a very unique representative from God.

    2. Bu there is something else unique about Melchizedek. For the first time in the history of scripture a man of God is recorded giving tithe to a representative of God.

    3. Abram has shown his commitment to his family. Abram has shown his commitment to his principles.

    4. But it is in his willingness to tithe, the willingness to give a tenth of everything to Melchizedek, the priest of God Most High, that Abram demonstrates his commitment to God.

    5. As believers, we have made our commitment to God. As believers, we recognize that everything we have belongs to God.

Conclusion: As we take communion in a few minutes, we are renewing our commitment to God.

  1. We recognize that God loves us

  2. We recognize that we are broken people who fall short of all that God expects of us

  3. We recognize that God has given His Son so we can be forgiven

  4. And we recognize, that at the moment we believed, we committed our selves to following Jesus Christ.

If you have never done this, why not let today be the day that you acknowledge your faith in Jesus Christ.

iMerriam-Webster, I. (1992). The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of Quotations. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster.

iiTan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations. Garland TX: Bible Communications.