Sunday, November 18, 2012

Doing It God's Way
(This sermon is built around an outline
originally suggested by Warren Wiersbe.)
Intro.: As you can guess, we had a wonderful trip these last three weeks.
  1. And I spent a great deal of time planning the trip so it would all fit together. 
  2. We had train reservations, we had motel reservations, we had friends to meet, and we had a couple of sight-seeing items to fit in.
  3. I tell you was most concerned with our stay in Seattle. We were scheduled to arrive at 9:30 at night. The hotels shuttle only ran until 10:00 PM – so if we were late, we would need to find our own ride from the Amtrak station to the hotel. But those concerns backfired – our train came in 1 hour early. Now we had to wait for the extra hour – in the rain – for the shuttle to arrive.

    But it was still confusing. The next morning we had a number of things to do

    1. eat breakfast, 
    2. get a ride from the motel to the Seattle Space Needle, 
    3. catch a 1:30 PM one hour tour of the Seattle harbor and 
    4. catch a 4:45 train back home to Rochester.

  4. But it all worked – we are here. Planning worked.
  5. The problem is they don't always.
  6. James knew that – listen to what he says.
Read: James 4:13-17

Trans:  The will of God meant something more to me 40 years ago.
  1. It meant finding a career
  2. It meant finding a place to work
  3. It meant finding the person to marry
  4. It meant a lot of things Today it means, as it
  5. should have them, listening to the voice of God and doing what he wants of me.
  6. But there is more than one response to the will of God.
T.S.  Warren Wiersbe suggests that James 4:13-17 introduces us to the three responses we can have to the will of God.
  1. Response #1: We can ignore the will of God
    1. There is no more common response to God's will. This is true for the non-Christian who gives no regard to the will of God. Sadly, to many of us who are believers are also living with the ugly truth that we ignore the will of God in making our plans.
    2. James makes it clear - “Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
    3. Take a short test - “How did you start today?” Before going to church today – whether it be your home congregation or be it this service, did you spend any time asking God to direct your day?”
(Ill.) Perhaps you have heard the story of the elderly man who was heard praying, “Lord, thank you that I a healthy today and have not yet broken any bones today. I am grateful that I have had not need for extra help today or that I have gone without food. God you are truly good. Now, I, as I get out of bed, that you allow my day to end the same way.”
(Ill.) Shirley Dobson, wife of James Dobson – the founder of Focus on the Family – tells a similar story.

When Focus on the Family was in its early stages and our children were young, my husband, Jim, traveled often. I had grown accustomed to his absences and
was never really frightened while he was away. Except once. 

            One night about 2:00 a.m., I awoke with a start. I was afraid and didn’t know why. For a few minutes (it seemed like hours!), I lay in bed worrying. Finally, I forced myself out of bed and sank to my knees.
“Lord, I don’t know why I’m so frightened,” I prayed. “I ask you to watch over our home and to protect our family. Send your guardian angel to be with us.” I climbed back into bed, and in about half an hour I was back asleep.
The next morning our babysitter, who lived across the street, came running over. “Mrs. Dobson, did you hear what happened? A burglar robbed your next-door neighbor’s
house last night!”

It was true. A thief had broken in, entered the couple’s bedroom while they slept, and 
snatched the husband’s wallet from a dresser. The burglar escaped with the family’s vacation money, about $500. The police determined the time of the robbery: about 2:00 a.m. 

 My mind reeled at the thought. “If a burglar wanted to 
break into our house,” I said, “he would probably try to get in through the bathroom window near our children’s bedrooms. 
There’s a hedge, and he’d be shielded from view. Let’s go look.”  
When we looked at the window on the other side of the house, we saw that the screen was bent and the sill splintered. Someone had indeed tried to break in!
I am convinced that God protected us that night. I was surprised, but I should not have been. For years, Jim and I had prayed and fasted, trusting God to protect our family. We knew God powerfully works through prayer. On that dark early morning, my trust was tested in a frantic moment, and God proved faithful.
    1. I can’t explain why God allows difficulties to come into our lives even though we are praying. But I know that in all circumstances, as the psalmist tells us, God is an
      ever-present help in trouble.1
    2. Both this elderly man and Shirley Dobson knew that they needed to submit to the will of God – whether they knew what was coming in the future or not.
    3. Perhaps when you wake tomorrow, you too can begin the day by asking to be fully in the will of God.
  1. Response #2: We can disobey the will of God
    1. Sadly, Christians also may choose to disobey the will of God.
    2. There may be times we will ask, “What is God's will?” - but there are times we know it:
      1. Love your neighbor
      2. Be kind
      3. Feed the poor
      4. Forgive those who wrong us
      5. … there are others
    3. But we choose to not obey – too hard, takes too much from us, the one we need to forgive does not deserve it.
    4. And so we decide to not obey.
(Ill.) One writer writes that he once learned a lesson from a dog he had. His father used to put a bit of meat or biscuit on the floor near the dog and say, “No!” and the dog knew he must not touch it. But he never looked at the meat. He seemed to feel that if he did so, the temptation to disobey would be too great, so he looked steadily at the father’s face. There is a lesson for us all. Always look up to the Master’s face.2
    1. Today, let's choose to not disobey – let's choose to look at the master's face.
  1. Response #3: We can look for and obey the will of God
    1. We can ignore God's will – and do what we want without considering it
    2. We can know God's will – and choose to disobey it
    3. But there is a third option for all of us. We can seek to understand God's will – and then choose to obey it!
    4. There are a couple of definitions of sin that the church uses -
      1. The most common is based on the Greek meaning of the word for sin, “Amartia” - it means “missing the mark”. The picture you might use is a target – God's will is represented by the smallest little circle in the center. And anything that veers short of that circle is sin.
      2. John Wesley's favorite definition of sin echo's that given by James, “A willful transgression of a known law of God.”
      3. Some would say we have to choose one definition or the other – it is either one or the other. I would argue that it is not either/or but rather both/and. Sin is “missing the mark” and it is a “willful transgression of a known law of God.”
    5. And here is the bottom line – I do not want to sin. I do want to know what god expects of me – and do it. And I do not want to miss the mark.
    6. I will miss the mark – I do not always know what God wants, I do not always get it right when I think I do – I will sin. But praise God, He forgives me when I do.

Shirley Dobson, Certain Peace in Uncertain Times (Multnomah, 2002) quoted in Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (133). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
Leslie E. Dunkin quoted in Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.