MATURING WITH GOD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
29 DECEMBER 1991
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Samuel 1:11
Preparation Verse: (Proverbs 22:6)
Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
This Christmas was something special for Mary and me, and I guess the best way to describe it is that it was simple and personal.
Our Christmas Eve service set the tone. It was light, but rich in music and the hope and assurance of God's ever present love and peace through Jesus Christ our Lord.
And that special gift of music composed by John Hallenbeck, and sung by the choir, touched me very deeply.
It wasn't a tangible gift like an article of clothing that is personal and worn for a while, but then wears out.
The gift of music is something that you can't keep personal, it must be shared with others; and it never wears out, but goes on and on for as long as we desire to hear it and perform it.
After church we went home and opened our few presents, some of which we ate.
None of them were expensive, either.
In fact, the total value of all of them was probably less than $100.00.
Mary and I spent Christmas day playing Scrabble, making a fire in the fireplace, baking a loaf of cardamom bread, fixing a salad, and eating mostly leftovers; and it couldn't have been more enjoyable.
We were just thankful for what we had.
After dinner I started to write this sermon, for I couldn't get something out of my mind that Tony Phillips said to me following our Christmas Eve service.
He said he was wrapping some Christmas presents, began to look around at what he had, and he said,
"If I don't get any presents for Christmas, it doesn't matter, for I have the love of my family, and that means more to me than anything else."
And then he said,
"Brent looked at me and thought for a moment, and then said, 'That's right, Dad, that really is the most important thing.' "
And they're correct. Material things are really not very important, and this is something the Lord has been trying to get through to us for thousands of years.
We all make mistakes, but when we have a father and son agreeing in matters such as these, we are on the pathway of heaven.
Our preparation verse for this morning, from Proverbs 22:6, is a confirmation:
6. Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Ephesians 6:4 is further confirmation:
4. And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
All of this we have been talking about is part of our maturing with God, both for adults and children.
We are never too old to begin to mature, and we are never too young.
The prophet Samuel, the last of the judges of Israel, was such an example.
Even before he was conceived in the womb, his mother prayed to the Lord about him (1 Samuel 1:11).
11. And she made a vow and said, "O Lord of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of Thy maidservant and remember me, and not forget Thy maidservant, but wilt give Thy maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head."
This is something that everyone should consider before bringing a child into the world.
We may not have to dedicate our children into the formal priesthood as Hannah is here vowing to do, but all of us should dedicate our children to the Lord all the days of their lives.
And, as they are growing up, we should all set the proper examples for them.
But this is also a two way street.
The child, too, must also want to live the proper way.
Let's skip forward in 1 Samuel to 2:18f.
18. Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod.
19. And his mother would make him a little robe and bring it to him from year to year when she would come up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.
20. Then Eli [the priest] would bless Elkanah and his wife and say, "May the Lord give you children from this woman in place of the one she dedicated to the Lord." And they went to their own home.
21. And the Lord visited Hannah; and she conceived and gave birth to three sons and two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew before the Lord.
We are not told any more about Samuel's mother and father, or about his brothers and sisters; but from what we know of them, they were faithful.
Hannah didn't raise her son once he could take care of himself, perhaps as early as three or four years of age; but she must have started him off on the proper footing.
Samuel was raised in the temple by Eli, the priest.
But Eli had some problems of his own with the raising of his own children. However, between Eli and Samuel there was mutual agreement to grow before the Lord.
Listen to what we are told, as we continue at verse 22:
22. Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.
Just because they were serving as priests before the Lord doesn't mean that they were godly, nor does it mean that with any other person.
A person is dedicated to the Lord only when they live a Christ-like life, and that is something that we are all to do.
Eli did try to correct the behavior of his sons:
23. And he said to them, "Why do you do such things, the evil things that I hear from all these people?
24. "No, my sons; for the report is not good which I hear the Lord's people circulating.
25. "If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?" But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for the Lord desired to put them to death.
The sons of Eli must have gone as far as blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and that is a scary thought, for it is the only unforgivable sin.
There are parents and children all around us who are coming very close to doing just that.
We all should really consider who we are before God, and whether we and our children and grandchildren are serving the Lord our God; truly serving Him, as Samuel is.
26. Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the Lord and with men.
This is the proof of godliness: that others look upon our life, and the way we conduct ourselves, as being an example of Christ-like living.
Eli obviously did something right when it came to Samuel, and Samuel was willing to listen and grow with the Lord.
We don't know how the situation between Eli and his sons got so far out of hand, but it is a warning to all of us to take stock in our own lives and the lives of our families.
It's never too late to change, if we really want to.
All of us make mistakes, and I know I sure did; but now I'm trying to do my best to make a difference in the world.
Yes, in the world, for our service to the Lord can never end with our church; it must extend to the whole of God's creation, which includes every other human being, every other animals, and the world in which we all live.
Since God is infinite, so must our loving and peacemaking service to the Lord be without limits.
And I know Tony will admit he has made some mistakes, too; but he also seems to be doing his best to make a difference.
We can all make a difference.
I pray that deep down inside we all can agree with Tony and Brent, that love is far more precious than any material thing we have or could ever have.
This is what Christ and Christmas is all about, or should be all about.
If this is truly the desire of our heart, we most likely had a merry Christmas.
And with this dedication to the Lord, we will have a happy New Year as well, not only this coming year, but all the years of the rest of our lives.
We all can mature with God.
We all can make a difference in the world.
God bless you all.
Happy New Year.
Your Comments are welcome
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