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THE CARE AND NURTURE OF GOD'S LOVE AND FAITH IN THE WORLD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
16 February 1992
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verses: (Acts 19:11-12)
And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.
The care and nurture of God's love and faith in the world is our responsibility.
Yes, it is our responsibility; and it's the responsibility of every other believer.
And the curious thing about this responsibility is that Jesus, as a man, yet God, recognized that He, too, had to function in this capacity.
Please turn with me to Luke 6:12f, and together let's try to understand what God is both telling us and trying to show us.
12. And it was at this time that He [Jesus] went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.
I would doubt if more than a few of us have ever done such a thing, and I believe that we certainly need to do this more than Jesus did.
And for that matter, why did Jesus feel it was necessary for Himself to pray at all?
Isn’t He and the Father one?
Then why would He have to pray to Him?
Because the pressures and frustrations of this sinful world were probably getting to Him, as well.
And since He deeply loved everyone, even those who rejected Him, He didn't want to do anything that in the least way could confuse the people.
So, even Jesus found it necessary to go off and be alone for a while with His Father.
He knew that He needed to nurture His faith, and that His quiet time with His Father would strengthen Him. He, in turn, strengthened His own love, so that He could care and nurture it in the world. We all need a quiet time to be with the Lord.
Oh! Do I wish that I would remember to do this more often myself, so that I,
too, would be more consistent with the care and nurture of the responsibilities
God has given me.
If we all would remember to do this, we would be a lot more believable as Christians.
So in this renewed strength, what does Jesus do?
Note the following verses:
13. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles:
14. Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew;
15. and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot;
16. Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
During His quiet time with His Father, Jesus realized He could not do everything all by Himself, even if He is God; for, at this time, He was also in the body of a man, with all its limitations.
So Jesus gives part of His responsibility of the ministry, part of His responsibility for the care and nurture of God's love and faith in this world, to some of His followers.
And yes, He even chose one who was doubtful, so that he, too, by his own free will, would choose the things of God and not of man.
Beloved, He also chose us, who are gathered here today in His presence, so that we, like they, would go back into the world, living in faith as an example to others, and sharing God's love so that others would be encouraged to do the same.
17. And He descended with them, and stood on a level place; and there was a great multitude of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon,
18. who had come to hear Him, and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured.
19. And all the multitude were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.
Not only were the Jews coming to Him, but the so-called heathens who lived in the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And all who sought Him, whether Jew or not, were all being healed.
God's love and grace extends to all people, so that they would come to Him in faith and be healed.
But not just for physical healing, but for spiritual healing as well; so that all of them would likewise grow in faith and love.
The miracles He performed were to attract the people's attention and bring them to Him. They were not an end in themselves.
By healing everyone, and not just a selected few, God is showing us that there is no limit to His love.
Everyone can find hope in Jesus Christ.
And those who have found this unconditional love and hope, can extend it to the whole of God's creation: to every other human being, to every other animal, and to the the world we all live in.
20. And turning His gaze on His disciples, He began to say, "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Some of Jesus' disciples were obviously becoming jealous because He was healing everyone, regardless of who they were or what they believed.
They felt that they had the ownership of God's grace, because they were God's chosen people.
God chooses people, not so they can hoard what He gives them, but so that they would share it abundantly with others.
In effect, Jesus says to them, blessed are those of you who have no pride of ownership in what I have given you, so that you just freely give it away; for in so doing, you have inherited even more than you have given away – you have inherited the kingdom of God.
21. "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
Jesus is speaking more of spiritual hunger than He is of physical hunger.
We are never so spiritually strong in our faith that we don't need any more.
John Wesley was once grieved over his own lack of faith, and he was wisely told, "Preach faith until you have it."
The more we exercise our faith, the stronger it becomes; and we do this by sharing it with others; then we, too, will be satisfied.
Look around the world, and see all the anguish and suffering of both humans and nonhumans.
Does it break your heart and make you want to cry?
I pray that it does, for one day your sorrow will be changed into joy, and your weeping into laughter.
But in the meantime, we are to do something to alleviate the suffering we see.
22. "Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.
A sinful world tries to justify itself by saying that sin is not sin, and that the ways of God are for sissies.
Well, it takes a lot more strength of character and faith to go against the evil in this world than it does to go along with it.
Those who go along with the evilness around us are the cowards and sissies.
And if the people of this world, who work at justifying themselves to each other, don't pick on us in the process, we are not doing a very good job for the Lord.
I personally can tell you that I have gone through some living hell since I first stepped behind this pulpit, and I still get many “slings and arrows” shot at me.
It's not easy doing the job that God sets before us.
So, if we are being picked on for upholding and caring and nurturing God's love and faith in this world (the whole of God's earthly creation), then,
23. "Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.
But what about those others that Jesus was looking at, in whom He saw something He didn't like?
24. "But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.
If what we do for God is to get the acclaim of the people, then that is the only reward we will receive; for we are not doing what we are doing for the Lord, but for ourselves.
25. "Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
Are we so sure of our faith and our love that we pass up the banquet table set before us?
Are we so satisfied with what we have spiritually that we don't think we lack anything and that we don't need to grow further?
Are we so confident in ourselves that we don't think others come up to our standards, and thus we don't share with them what God has given us?
For if this is the way that some of us feel, then what we have will be taken
from us, and we will have less in the end than we had in the beginning.
And if we also laugh at, or take pleasure in the suffering of others, human or otherwise, then we, too, will learn what suffering is all about, for we will experience it first hand.
26. "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets.
The prophets of God speak and live the things of God, or at least they do their very best to do so.
This is not true of the false prophets, for they say the things that tickle the ears of other people; and they live as the others live, in order to be accepted by them.
The choice is really ours, for we all have been chosen, just as Jesus picked the apostles.
Some of us may already be strong in the faith, and will go forth from here and do as the Lord desires of us, and we will continue to grow and become even stronger.
But others of us are weak in the faith, as was Judas Iscariot; and like him, we have a free will.
We can choose to end up as he did, or we can turn from our worldly ways, and become the true disciples of Jesus Christ that He desires us all to be.
The choice is ours.
We have been given the responsibility for the care and nurture of God's love
and faith in this world...the whole of God's creation.
If you decide to take this job, I want you to know that you will find it hard, and not many people will really appreciate what you are doing; and the pay is really bad, too.
But in the end, your reward will be great. In the meantime, by the grace and love of God, He will show us a glimpse of what is to come.
The job is here waiting for the workers.
The choice is ours.
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