Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Bread Upon the Waters

You are here

Bread Upon the Waters

Downloads
MP3 Audio (26.42 MB)

Downloads

Bread Upon the Waters

MP3 Audio (26.42 MB)
×

A real world example of Ecclesiastes 11:1 -"Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days."

Transcript

[John May] If you would like to put down a title for the sermon today it is this: Bread Upon the Waters.

Let’s begin today by turning to Ecclesiastes 11, and we’ll look at verses 1 through 6, because there is a remarkably important lesson in this passage that I’d like to explore with you today. Ecclesiastes 11, starting in verse 1. It reads:

Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 Ecclesiastes 11:1-6 [1] Cast your bread on the waters: for you shall find it after many days. [2] Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for you know not what evil shall be on the earth. [3] If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it shall be. [4] He that observes the wind shall not sow; and he that regards the clouds shall not reap. [5] As you know not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so you know not the works of God who makes all. [6] In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hand: for you know not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good.
American King James Version×
Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth. If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie. In others words, things happen, so beware. Verse 4: He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything. We don’t always know what God is doing or why He is doing it, but we have faith that it will work out. And then verse 6: In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

So the farmer going out doesn’t know which plants are going to take – which are going to have an abundance of yield – and so he casts the seeds.

Today I would like to explore with you this question: What does it mean to cast your bread upon the waters? There is actually much speculation in Bible commentaries and websites on this topic. What is important to note here is that the verse is not a stand-alone idea. We read verses 1 through 6, because these six verses go together, and verses 2 through 6 helps us to understand verse 1.

The passages about sowing seed and not withholding our hand when we do so is about giving while we can, because times change and we may not always be able to give. It is also about giving for the sake of giving without always knowing where our gifts may end up. Verse 1 declares that when we cast the bread upon the waters, it will eventually come back to us.

I’d like to take a true example from history to serve as an illustration of this biblical principle. We’ll spent some time on the story, which comes from the early part of the 20th century, then we will return to the scriptures to see how some Bible examples of this principle can be applied.

In August of 1937, the Empire of Japan launched a full scale attack on the Chinese city of Shanghai. By mid-November the Chinese army was forced to abandon Shanghai to the Japanese. After recovering their strength, the Japanese forces were ordered to advanced on China’s capital – then the city of Nanking – on December 1,1937. The Chinese government ordered the bulk of their army to perform a strategic retreat to China’s interior rather than make an effort to defend Nanking en-masse. Only a few thousand Chinese troops remained to slow down the Japanese advanced into Nanking.

With the Japanese army advancing on Nanking, most of the non-Chinese living in Nanking abandoned the city. Only twenty-two foreigners elected to remain behind. Among them were businessmen, doctors and Christian missionaries. The most prominent member of the remaining foreign nationals was a German business man named John Rabe. As the German word for Mister is Herr – H-E-R-R – I’ll refer to him from this point as Herr Rabe.

Herr Rabe had been born in Germany, but had spent half of his life in China. He had served as the executive-in-chief of the Nanking office for Siemens Corporation. Siemens Corporation had the responsibility of running Nanking’s electricity and telephone utilities. Herr Rabe had lived in China for three decades and received a generous salary from Siemens for his management expertise. He was particularly fond of Chinese art and sculpture and had accumulated a private collection of several excellent pieces which he displayed in his home in Nanking.

However, in November of 1937, Siemens Corporation decided to close down the Nanking office and to recall Herr Rabe to Germany. Just a few days before he was set to sail back to Europe, the Japanese began their assault on Nanking. Rabe and fourteen other foreigners chose to remain in Nanking despite the dangers in an effort to help their Chinese workers and neighbors. So these fifteen people specifically chose to lend a hand to help those in need. The fifteen foreigners decided on a plan to create a safe zone in Nanking where non-military refugees could be housed, fed, and protected from Japanese brutality. They formed a committee which they named The International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone. The group voted to appoint John Rabe as their leader.

There were several reasons why Herr Rabe was selected: his three decades of experience in China, his leadership experience, his extensive knowledge of the city. All these were important,  but the main reason why Rabe was elected as leader was because Herr Rabe was a member of the National Socialist Party of Germany. John Rabe was a Nazi.

Now Herr Rabe was not much interested in German politics. In fact, all Rabe knew of Hitler and the Nazis was what he had read in a few German language papers that he had subscribed to. Herr Rabe joined the National Socialist Party because he wanted to create a school in Nanking for the children of German families, but would not be allowed to do so without receiving an educational license from Germany, and in order to get that license the school had to be administered by a National Socialist Party member. So Rabe submitted his application and received his party card and little Swatzika Badge.

Now why did being a Nazi convinced the other foreigners to elect Rabe as their leader? The group consisted of British, French, Americans and others, all of whom despised the National Socialists of Germany. Well, the answer was simple. Germany and Japan had already formed a co-operative alliance, and the group hoped that the Japanese military would see Herr Rabe as a representative of Germany in China. As such, they might think twice before risking harm to him or those whom he wished to protect.

After he was elected to lead the safe zone, Rabe wrote in his diary – which has since been published – “There is a question of morality here. I cannot bring myself for now to betray the trust these people have put in me. and it is touching to see how they believe in me.”

Well, Rabe ordered that the German flags be hoisted throughout the Safe Zone with floodlights illuminating them at night. To the Japanese the area seemed to be a Nazi fortress in the middle of Nanking. Rabe met with the Japanese leaders and they approved the safety zone on the condition that the Chinese troops would not be permitted to hide there or be given medical aid. Of course, when the attack came, many of the Chinese troops had taken off their uniforms and pretended to be civilians to hide from the Japanese.

Within a few hours, rumors of the Safe Zone spread through Nanking. The committee had estimated that the Zone could possibly house and feed up to 100,000 Chinese refugees for perhaps one month. That number was reached within a few days, but as the Japanese advanced through the streets of Nanking, they committed horrible acts of violence against the civilian population. Young women and girls were especially targeted for abuse and violation by the Japanese troops. Men attempting to intervene were shot, bayonetted or beheaded. Any male suspected of having served in the Chinese army was simply killed and Chinese forces who surrendered were executed. The Japanese commander in China had given orders that Japan would not recognize the category of war prisoner. The carnage in the streets sent waves of refugees into the safety zone every day. Rabe and others continued to allow them in even though they knew they did not have enough food to sustain such a massive group.

Soon over 200,000 refugees crowded into the safe zone. Rabe estimated in his diary that between 40,000 and 60,000 Chinese civilians had perished in the worst six weeks of the Nanking massacre, but he was not able to travel to most parts of the city once the Safe Zone was established. Chinese sources estimated the death toll to be over 250,000 civilians. Rabe often had to leave the Safe Zone to acquire more rice. Prices were outrageous and bribes were always expected by those who did have food. Though this was unknown to other committee members, Rabe ended up spending nearly all of his own life savings to buy food for those Chinese refugees.

The Safe Zone, however, was not really very safe. On numerous occasions, Japanese soldiers infiltrated the zone under pretext of looking for Chinese spies and soldiers. Dozens of girls from the Christian missionary school within the safe zone were taken by the Japanese to serve as concubines for the soldiers. On a few occasions, Japanese troops jumped the walls of Rabe’s own house, attempting to kidnap girls who had taken refuge in his garden. Rabe, unarmed, confronted them, shouted, “Hitler, Hitler!”  and a few words in German, waved his Nazi Party badge in their faces, and the Japanese soldiers withdrew.

By December of 1937, all hope seemed lost. Food was almost gone along with his money and there seemed to be no possibility of Western intervention. The world simply didn’t care what happened to China. Rabe wrote in his diary on December 24, “We are very near the end of our tether. I’ll close today’s entry with this prayer in my heart: May a gracious God keep all of you from ever again having to face a crisis like the one in which we now find ourselves. I do not regret having stayed on here, for my presence has saved many lives, but all the same my suffering is indescribable.”

Just over 1 month later, the Japanese allowed foreign diplomats and members of the international press into Nanking. From this point the refugees would be much safer from abuse by Japanese soldiers. Rabe was ordered to return to Germany and did so at the end of February 1938, but his leadership and personal sacrifice had helped to save the lives of over 200,000 men, women and children in Nanking – 200,000 people! Few people know the story of John Rabe. His diaries were in the possession of his daughter and were not released by the family until the 1990’s – finally published in the US in 1998.

Here was a man who thought of himself as a good Christian, yet he was also a member of the Nazi party. Here was a savvy businessman who had used up most of his life savings buying rice to feed poor and hungry war refugees. In January of 1938, Rabe wrote in his diary, “We twenty-two foreigners who remain here in Nanking have behaved as bravely as the first Christians in Rome, who were devoured by lions in the arena.”

Let’s turn to Galatians. I told you we'd get to scriptures soon. Galatians 6, and we’ll be looking at verses 7 through 10. John Rabe and the other foreigners who stayed in Nanking, China, risked their own lives to do good works to benefit others. When they committed to this course of action, they had no idea how many lives, if any, they could actually save, but they made the decision to do good. They chose to act and left it up to God to determine how effective their efforts would be. Galatians 6, verse 7 – Paul writes here:

Galatians 6:7 Galatians 6:7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap.
American King James Version×
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.

Now we often use that verse in the church to say that well, if you sow bad things you should expect to receive bad things, but the reverse is also true. If you sow good works you should expect to receive good. It goes both ways.

V-8-10 – For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season – and that is an important point – in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Notice it does not say exclusively to those who are of the household of faith – to all. Paul admonishes Christians to remember that we will reap as we sow. We are expected to do good to all. That includes those who are not yet called to serve Christ – and there are many billions of those individuals on our planet.

We will receive from God as we give to God’s service. When will we receive the rewards of our efforts? In due season.

Let’s go to 1 Timothy - also Paul writing here. 1 Timothy 6, and we’ll look at verses 17 through 19. We know that sometimes God blesses us physically in this life for our acts of charity and for our obedience to Him, but sometimes God withholds those blessings. Maybe some will be withheld until our change comes – not in this life. 1 Timothy 6:17 1 Timothy 6:17Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy;
American King James Version×
:

1 Timothy 6: 17-19 – Command those who are rich in this present age – those with advantages, those who have had many physical blessings. Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. And notice there is now a charge here. There’s a commission. There’s an expectation – verse 18: Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

See, we will never carry into eternal life physical riches accumulated in this life. That is not how it works – no gold or silver, no house, no automobile. Make a list in your head of all the physical things you value the most – as they say in New York, forget about it (using New York accent). You are not taking that with you.

Let’s go to Hebrews 13, and look at verses 14 to 16. You see, the physical we don’t carry with us. What do we carry with us? Only the foundation of character that we built in this life will endure and God will be the One to build on that foundation. Hebrews 13, verse 14:

Hebrews 13:14-16 Hebrews 13:14-16 [14] For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. [15] By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. [16] But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
American King James Version×
For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God – that is, the fruit of our lips – giving thanks to His name. So that is important – remembering to praise God – but notice verse 16 – that’s not all. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

We don’t often think about doing good to others as sacrifice, but that’s a sacrifice that is far more pleasing to God than the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were. It’s a sacrifice to take your time, or to set aside your money, to help those who are in need, but God knows that you are doing it. God pays attention to those sacrifices. God, it says, is well pleased when we do not forget to do good and to share.

Now John Rabe considered himself to be a Christian, and he read the Bible on a regular basis. He considered himself to be a servant of Jesus Christ, and he believed that he had an obligation as a Christian to sacrifice himself in service to those in need. That was his understanding of Christianity and he acted on what he understood.

Herr Rabe was not a member of the Church of God. He was not a Sabbath keeper, but I wonder, if we have been in his situation, would we have had the courage that he did to risk our lives to do those things? Or would we have boarded that first boat out of China back to Germany, leaving all those thousands to fend for themselves?

Let’s look at James 4:13 James 4:13Go to now, you that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
American King James Version×
. Now I am sure there were many commendable people who were concerned for their families who did get on those boats, and I am in no way condemning that choice, but Rabe chose a higher calling. If such commendable individuals in the world, without God’s Holy Spirit, can accomplish so much through courage and good works, what does God expect of His firstfruits – those who have now been called to salvation in this lifetime? Would He expect any less of us? James 4:13 James 4:13Go to now, you that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:
American King James Version×
:

James 4:13-17 James 4:13-17 [13] Go to now, you that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: [14] Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. [15] For that you ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. [16] But now you rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. [17] Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.
American King James Version×
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,” whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore – notice verse 17 –  to him who knows to do good – there’s doing good again – and does not do it, to him it is sin.

See, that is a transgression against God’s law. We don’t just sin through improper action. We can also sin through inaction when we do not allow God’s Holy Spirit to work through us to do good to those in need. That is a powerful warning, isn’t it? It is always easier to look the other way and do nothing than to risk our money, or our safety, or our time to take actions when we know we should. But we have to always remember that none of us know what will happen tomorrow. As Ecclesiastes 11:2 Ecclesiastes 11:2Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for you know not what evil shall be on the earth.
American King James Version×
said,

Ecclesiastes 11:2 Ecclesiastes 11:2Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for you know not what evil shall be on the earth.
American King James Version×
Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth.

Now we have relative peace and stability in this country today, but as Mr. Morrison discussed in the announcements, that’s not the case all around the world. We live in a very dangerous world and we know that things are going to be accelerating. We do not know what evil will be on the earth. When Rabe took that position in China, he didn’t know China would be invaded by the Japanese Empire, and that he would find himself in a position like he did.

We have limited time and limited opportunities in this life to show God that we are the kind of individuals whom He can utilize in His Kingdom.

Let’s look at 1 Peter 3. We’ll start reading in verse 8. Peter here writes about how God expects His servants to behave while they are living in this world. And notice, as we proceed, that God never talks about rewarding us for what we know – and there are lots of smart people in God’s Church. But God never says He will reward us for what we know, but rather He will reward us for the things we do – how we act on what we know. That’s the sacrifice with which God is pleased. 1 Peter 3:8 1 Peter 3:8Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brothers, be pitiful, be courteous:
American King James Version×
:

1 Peter 3:8 1 Peter 3:8Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brothers, be pitiful, be courteous:
American King James Version×
Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another. Love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous, not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. God expects us to be a blessing to others, and in return, we will receive a  blessing from Him. Verse 10: For He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do – what? – do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. Those are action words: Do good, seek peace, pursue peace. Peace does not come naturally to human beings. Just watch the news. It must be actively pursued. Verse 12: For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. And there are many in this world who do evil. Verse 13: And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? Again, following what is good is more than thinking good thoughts – practicing good works. But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear, having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile – what? what you believe? – those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Let’s go to Isaiah 1. This theme dominates the scriptures. We’ll be looking at just verse 17 here. While you are turning there, let’s think about this. What are some things that God wants to see His children doing in this life? What types of activities does He expect to see us pursuing as we prepare to serve in God’s Kingdom? They are listed here in verse 17 – at least some of them – Isaiah 1:17 Isaiah 1:17Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
American King James Version×
:

Isaiah 1:17 Isaiah 1:17Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
American King James Version×
Learn to do good – and it involves learning. We have to study God’s word to see what is good, what is righteousness, but once we know it, we can’t just sit and think about it. We have to do good. Here are some examples of how we can do good: Seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.

Those are action words. Aren’t these the very things that John Rabe and his foreign colleagues did in China when they stood up to the Japanese Empire? They sought justice for the victims. They rebuked the oppressors – in nice language, yes, but they asked them, “Pretty please, stop killing people we are trying to protect.” They defended the fatherless. There were many orphans who made their way into that safe zone, and Rabe stood between them and the Japanese soldiers. “Plead for the widow” – many women, whose Chinese husbands had been killed, sought his protection.

The expectation here in Isaiah seems to be that God wants His people to actively find a variety of ways to help those in need. We need to send out some of our bread for good works. Just set it there on the water. See, if you don’t cast it into the water, God can’t use the tides and the currents to take it anywhere. But if you do, He will. Set that bread on the water. Send some to the fatherless. Send some bread to the widows. Spread it around. Disperse it here and there. Cast your bread on many waters.

Let’s go to Psalm 37. It is a Psalm of David – someone whom God said was a man after His own heart. Psalm 37 – we’ll look at verses 21 to 27. What does David say?

Psalm 37: 21-27 – The wicked borrows and does not repay – Mr. Armstrong would have called that “the way of get” – but the righteous shows mercy and gives – “the way of give” – there it is. For those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth…. Remember, God says there is a blessing for those who bless. And what’s the blessing for those who are righteous? They will inherit the earth. …but those cursed by Him shall be cut off. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way – what he does. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old – David says – yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed. Depart from evil, and do good, and dwell forevermore.

Obviously, doing good does not entitle us to live forevermore in this physical body. We know we don’t earn salvation through good works, but we do earn a blessing. God said so. David is referring to eternal life in God’s family as the ultimate reward for departing from evil and doing good. That’s quite a blessing – quite a blessing! But we cannot wait. God doesn’t want us to wait until Christ returns to start departing from evil and doing good. See, then it is too late. Those actions have to happen in this life – right now – and I know many of us are working hard at doing just those things. And God appreciates that.

Let’s go to Luke 6. We will look at the words of Jesus Christ Himself here. Luke 6, and we’ll start in verse 30. Christ Himself emphasized the importance of developing a giving nature while we are living in this world.

Luke 6:30-36 Luke 6:30-36 [30] Give to every man that asks of you; and of him that takes away your goods ask them not again. [31] And as you would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise. [32] For if you love them which love you, what thank have you? for sinners also love those that love them. [33] And if you do good to them which do good to you, what thank have you? for sinners also do even the same. [34] And if you lend to them of whom you hope to receive, what thank have you? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. [35] But love you your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. [36] Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
American King James Version×
Give to everyone who asks of you. Now that’s tough. That is tough. Many of us have limited resources. But you notice, it doesn’t say you have to just give money. You could give your time. You could give your prayers. There are many ways that we can find to give to those who ask. And from him who takes away your goods, do not ask them back. You see Jesus is trying to say, “Look, this is physical stuff. In the long run it doesn’t matter. It will all be burnt up anyway one day, so who cares if they keep it?” And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But you, what do you do? Verse 35: But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Therefore – because that’s the way our Father is – therefore – verse 36 – [you] be merciful, [be] just as your Father also is merciful.

Learning to be a giving person teaches us to be merciful, doesn’t it? Showing mercy allows us to better understand the nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ.  Doing good allows us to emulate God’s very character – His righteous character – and that’s what makes God pleased to call us His children.

Let’s go to 1 Peter 2. Doing good works, showing mercy through giving to those in need, also shows God’s nature to those who are now not being called by God. There are many who observe us – our colleagues at work, in our neighborhoods – there are many who know that we are somehow different. They watch what we do. They may not be impressed with what we know, but they know what we do. Just because God isn’t calling them now, doesn’t mean that our example of merciful giving will go unnoticed by those around us in the world. 1 Peter 2:11 1 Peter 2:11Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
American King James Version×
:

1 Peter 2:11-16 1 Peter 2:11-16 [11] Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; [12] Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. [13] Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; [14] Or to governors, as to them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. [15] For so is the will of God, that with well doing you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: [16] As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
American King James Version×
Beloved, I beg you – I beg you – as sojourners and pilgrims – we are here temporarily – abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct – what you do – honorable among the Gentiles…. You see, we can’t just be honorable in our contact with those in the Church, and then walk out those doors and it is a different life. …having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works, which they observe – oh yes, they do! – glorify God in the day of visitation – when it’s their time. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men – as free yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God.

God wants us to use our freedom to serve others as Christ Himself did. Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for humanity. He laid down His life for those who hated Him – for the very ones who killed Him. And what did He do? He gave Himself completely. None of us can make any sacrifice that even approaches Christ’s example, but we can make smaller ones.

Let’s look at Luke 14, verse 12 to 14 – Luke 14.

I have the opportunity during the week to work as a high school history teacher. And I have several posters up in my room – inspirational posters that I got to choose, fortunately. Some of them are not quite the inspiration that I would like to leave with kids, but the ones I choose are. And I found a poster that I put up in my classroom with a quote by the now deceased Mother Theresa. She was a Catholic nun and missionary who devoted most of her life to serving the extremely poor in India. This is the statement on the poster: “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” “We cannot all do great things but we can do small things with great love.” Mother Theresa did not understand God’s plan the way that we do, but she could read her Bible. She understood enough to know that serving God involves sacrifice on behalf of others. Let’s read here in Luke 14, starting in verse 12:

Luke 14:12-14 Luke 14:12-14 [12] Then said he also to him that bade him, When you make a dinner or a supper, call not your friends, nor your brothers, neither your kinsmen, nor your rich neighbors; lest they also bid you again, and a recompense be made you. [13] But when you make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: [14] And you shall be blessed; for they cannot recompense you: for you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
American King James Version×
Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.” Well, why do that? Verse 14: “And you will be blessed – you will be blessed – because they cannot repay you, for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

God remembers your sacrifices. When we cast our bread on many waters, we do not know when it will return to us but Christ promises that it will. God takes note of all our acts of generosity, of mercy, of love and He will bless us as a result of such acts of love and service towards those in need.

Let’s look at Acts 10 - the book of Acts, chapter 10. When I mentioned earlier that John Rabe was a member of the Nazi Party, I suspect some of you immediately lost a lot of sympathy for him. After all, horrendous deeds were perpetrated by Hitler and the Nazis. In the time of the Apostles, when these words were written, the Roman Empire ruled over the Mediterranean world. And if you think our government has problems now, imagine living under the brute force of the Roman Empire. The Romans were oppressing the Jews of Judea. And the Romans also committed violent and horrific deeds. Yet a member of the Roman army was called by God. Acts 10, verse 1:

Acts 10:1-5 Acts 10:1-5 [1] There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, [2] A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. [3] He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying to him, Cornelius. [4] And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said to him, Your prayers and your alms are come up for a memorial before God. [5] And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter:
American King James Version×
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment – a devout man and one who feared God with all his household – who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. Now that is rather surprising. You wouldn’t think there’d be somebody in the Roman army – a soldier, an officer – who feared God, but there was one – at least one. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now let’s think about that. Here’s a man who hadn’t been baptized. God was listening to his prayers. See, God has mercy on whom He will have mercy. Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter.

And then the next several verses reveal how Cornelius, a Roman officer, was called into the Church of God. And Peter had to receive a special vision to convince him to meet with Cornelius, because initially he didn’t want to do it. He was a Gentile. After all Cornelius was probably the least likely kind of person to convert to Christianity. But notice verse 21:

V-21-28 – Then Peter went down to the men who had been sent to him from Cornelius, and said, “Yes, I am he whom you seek. For what reason have you come?” And they said, “Cornelius the centurion, a just man, one who fears God and has a good reputation among all the nation of the Jews, was divinely instructed by a holy angel to summon you to his house, and to hear words from you.” Then he invited them in and lodged them. On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. So his family is there and his buddies. As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up. I myself am also a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. These were people who were trusting the example of Cornelius, because they respected his actions. They respected the man he was. Verse 28: Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”

Let’s go down to verse 34:

V-34-35 – Then Peter opened his mouth and said, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” And notice verse 35: “But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”

Cornelius was the kind of man God wanted to be in His family, and God found him and heard him, and called him into the faith.

John Rabe did not know the truth as we do, but he demonstrated great courage, personal sacrifice and immense love. He did a great thing with great love. Wouldn’t God be eager to welcome such a man into His family in due season?

Aren’t there many other human beings in the world right now who engage in courageous acts of love and sacrifice for others whom God wants to be a part of his family in due season? There are new people coming into contact every week with the Church of God as a result of our Website, our literature, our television programs, personal contacts with members and the Church. God has called us to support the proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world. It is not us versus them. It is us and them later. It is good to remember that. No matter our age, or how many years we’ve been in God’s Church, God hasn’t called us to sit back now and take it easy. He calls us to acts of love and sacrifice as a way of life – our whole life. He expects us to continue casting our bread upon the waters each and every day. And God will take it from there.

So what was the fate of John Rabe who risked his life to help safe so many Chinese civilians in Nanking? Herr Rabe returned to Germany in 1938, and he found out the nature of Hitler’s regime. He brought with him film footage and photographic evidence of the Japanese atrocities committed in Nanking, and he wrote to Adolf Hitler, pleading with Hitler to appeal to the Japanese government to treat civilians with humanity and concern. He didn’t know Hitler very well yet. Rabe began giving public lectures on the rape of Nanking, as it was to be called, and the German Gestapo promptly arrested him. After all, it was not appropriate for a German citizen and a member of the Nazi party to be speaking ill of Germany’s Asian ally. The Siemens Corporation appealed to the Gestapo for Rabe to be released, and he was. He was demoted,, reprimanded officially by the company, and sent to Afghanistan to live for several months. He returned to Germany and settled in Berlin prior to the end of World War II. Food was scarce and Soviet troops were rapidly approaching the German capital. Rabe wrote in his diary on May 9, 1945: “When need is greatest God is nearest.”

After Germany’s surrender, the Soviet army occupied Berlin, and Rabe was arrested again and interrogated. He was a Nazi. He was eventually released, and was then re-arrested by the British, since he had been a Nazi. He was denied a work permit, because he had been a Nazi, which prevented him from earning an income. Rabe and his family were starving. He had to sell up his small collection of Chinese art and pottery to buy food. Only after undergoing an extensive program of de-nazification, was he granted a work permit. But Rabe, at this point, was in ill health and could only get part time work – not enough to lift his family out of dire poverty. Now broken and sickly, humbled and exhausted, he prepared for the end. However, it is then that something amazing happened. 

Now that the war was over the mayor of Nanking, China, decided to enquire as to what had become of their hero, Herr Rabe. When he discovered that Rabe and his family were literally starving, the mayor asked the Nanking survivors to take up a collection to help out their German protector. The poor Chinese citizens of Nanking raised thousands of dollars – worth about $19,000.00 in US currency today – and the mayor personally travelled to Germany to deliver this money along with packages of food. Herr Rabe was overwhelmed with gratitude. Every month another care package arrived from China, addressed as follows: To the living Buddha of Nanking, Herr John Rabe. It was just enough food to keep his family alive.

Remember that promise from Ecclesiastes? “Cast your bread upon the waters for you will find it after many days.” God honored that promise – in a limited way in this life – by supplying material goods to Herr Rabe in his time of need, but God’s blessings extend far beyond physical provisions.

John Rabe died of a stroke in 1950. He was in his late 60’s, and died while working at a part time job while struggling to survive in post-war Germany. John Rabe died with very few material goods to show for his earthly efforts. And few people outside of China had any idea who he was or and what he had done to save so many lives, but God will never forget John Rabe’s good works. Nor will He forget ours. God is a rewarder of those who do good.

John Rabe will live again. He will have an opportunity to learn the true gospel, and to repent of past sins and to become a part of God’s own family. As we read previously in Acts 10:34-35 Acts 10:34-35 [34] Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: [35] But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.
American King James Version×
:

Acts 10:34-35 Acts 10:34-35 [34] Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: [35] But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him.
American King James Version×
In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.