Satan, the devil, has done a very good job in blinding the minds of people to the purpose of God and truly why we are alive. What is the purpose for life?
I’d like to quote from a book, and Doug Horchak last week referred to this particular book, The Boiling Point written by George Barna. In it he gives what the world is looking forward to as far as trends. He mentions that everyone seems to be intrigued today by lists, you know we have lists of the top forty tunes, country, pop, whatever it might be, the hundred best companies to work for, twenty of the largest churches in the United States, and you go on and on. There are whole books out about lists.
Well from the research that the Barna research group has done, they’ve come up with the ten trends that we can look forward to, if you want to use those terms, in the next decade, and that these will have a fundamental influence on everyone.
Number 1 is that the nation’s population will grow by another twenty-five million. Lifestyles will be defined by the complexity of daily opportunities, expectations and behavior. Personal values will be ever changing and compromised as necessary to get by and feel good. (So, whatever it takes to get by and feel good, people will do it.) Selfishness will rule as people strive to make sense of life and maximize the options. New technologies will alter jobs, lifestyles, relationships, and business functions. Businesses that provide entertaining experiences will rise to the top. Genetic manipulation will alter medicine and health care.
Now this is really a scary one, just as a side point. The last couple of weeks, there was an article that came out in the paper talking about genetically changing plants. As you know, they’re trying to do this to make them resistant to pestilence, all kinds of let’s say pests out there, but they have discovered in so doing that there is a very strong chance that this could spread from one species to another. And so, as they said, once the genie is out of the bottle, then it could spread to other plants, vegetables, other vegetable material out there, and consequently, could come on into a human body and could have a profound effect upon our bodies.
Another trend, "Moral relativism, will reign until replaced by neoism. Faith will be a study in form without Christian substance. And then people will embrace new national and international authority structures." So those are what they consider the top ten.
He goes on to say that there are other things that could be mentioned, ". . .such as generational schisms, killer disease, free lance employment, biblical ignorance, global terrorism." This book was written before the terrorist attack. I think I would move that one up, you know, into the top ten lists. So there are a lot of trends out there, and when you begin to look at the American way of life, the description of a lifestyle that the average American is living, you begin to realize that there is something radically wrong with how we live, with how we conduct our lives.
There was a very succinct description of the American lifestyle that was recently given by comedian and social critic, George Carlin. I think many of you are familiar with him. Some of you may like his humor, but notice, let’s say in spite of his approach to humor, I want you to notice how he summarizes what is going on in this country, and it is the paradox.
"You know, on one hand it seems like we have advances, on the other hand, it’s a downer. The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but we have less; we buy more, we enjoy it less; we have bigger houses, smaller families; more convenience, but less time. We have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine, but less wellness. We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quick, stay up too late, get up too tired. Too seldom do we read books. We watch too much TV, and we pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but we’ve reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life, but not life to years.
"We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet new neighbors. We have conquered outer space, but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve split the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We learn to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, and we have less communication.
"These are the times of fast foods, slow digestion, tall men and shorter character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare. More leisure, but less fun, more kinds of food, but less nutrition. These are the days of two incomes, but more divorce, fancier homes, but broken homes. There are the days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw away morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill." That was his short summary of what is going on around us. I think most of us can see that. It’s a dichotomy. On one hand, you have what seems to be an advancement, and then you have the downside.
As Barna says, "Our research shows that people are doing the best they can to get by from day to day, and they find it immensely difficult to achieve the quality of life that people are striving for." People are looking for a good quality life, yet it says, "Two thirds of all adults admit that they like to be in control, yet most admit that they’re not in control." It says, "Six out of ten Americans say they are skeptical, and we live in an age where people are skeptical. Such an attitude has become one of the defenses that we use to protect ourselves from being ripped off, manipulated, exploited. Half of all adults concur that they are just too busy, that we work too much, and that we stay busy, just with things."
Gone are the days that maybe many of us can remember when the evening would come, you’d go out and sit on your porch; children would play in the yard, and you would relax; you’d tell stories, sing songs, have the neighbors over, and you’d just have the extended family in. Today we don’t do that. Everybody’s rushing off to someplace else.
"Half of us acknowledge that we’re seeking just a few good friends, that people still feel emotionally and strangely disconnected." And this, I think, is one of the most profound statements in the book: "One of the most confounding and bothersome stresses we face relates to our purpose in life. Less than one out of twenty can identify what they believe is God’s unique vision for their life. Half of us say that we’re still trying to figure out the ultimate meaning or purpose of life."
So, brethren, when you realize that one out of twenty in this country do not know the reason why they are alive, it shows that there’s something missing. And as we’re going to see, there’s something that you and I can do to help.
There are six major goals that he says the average American is striving for. "One is good health, or better physical health, one is to live with a higher degree of integrity," although he admits,
". . at the same time people report incidents of lying, stealing and cheating have increased, moral convictions have gone down, but people still talk about it. Again, they have form, but they don’t have the substance. People talk about having one marriage for life, that this is what people strive for, but one quarter of the population’s already missed out because they’ve been divorced, and you find divorce rates are climbing, adultery remains rampant, cohabitation continues to be an issue that many people have. You find that people want a close, personal friendship, and the one thing that we find in our society today, that people do not have close friends, someone that they can bond with, have respect, emotional bonding, need for love. People want a clear purpose for living, and they want to have a closer, personal relationship with God, but they really have no idea about how to go about doing that."
Brethren, what you find is out of these six major goals that people say they’re striving for, I want you to notice that half of them involve a spiritual element, relationships with others, purpose in life, and having a relationship with God.
Satan, the devil, has done a very good job in blinding the minds of people to the purpose of God and truly why we are alive. What is the purpose for life? You know, this is precisely what II Corinthians 4:4 says. Let’s go there. I think this is a scripture that many of you are familiar with. II Corinthians 4:4 has this to say:
II Corinthians 4:4 - It says: "Whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them." So what we find is Satan has blinded the minds and the hearts of people. God has called us out of the world for a purpose. Those of us who are sitting here today, those who understand God’s way of life, we understand that there is a purpose for life. God has called us for a reason. He has an object in mind for us, a purpose. We understand the purpose of life. We know why we were born, but yet the average person has no idea, doesn’t have a clue as to why he was born; to be happy, you know, achieve the American dream, have more, these type of things is what generally drives most people.
How many people do you know understand that man can become a member of the family of God, a member of the kingdom of God, made immortal, live forever, and have the opportunity to rule with Christ for eternity? We also understand the values that govern our relationships with one another, with God, and that we can truly have a right relationship with God, the supreme God of the universe. And when you stop and think about the fact that there is a God who is in charge of everything, and He, personally, looked down and hand-picked every one of us, opened our minds and began to work with us that we might be called in this age to be a part of His family, and you realize that we have a tremendous blessing. We understand that God is not trying to convert all humanity today, that a few people will be called in this age. We understand that there is a two-fold purpose for our calling.
Well, brethren, what I have seen over the last several years, that two-fold purpose for our calling has been de-emphasized, especially since the late eighties in the Church of God. We understand that one of those purposes is what I have already articulated, that you and I are being trained, we’re being prepared to become rulers in the kingdom of God and to serve all humanity. We are learning the proper attitudes and approach how to be true servant leaders, how to deal with people, and so we understand that God has called us, and that we are in training in preparation for jobs in the future. But you know, we’ve also been called to do a work of preaching the gospel to the world. We have been called now to take that message of the kingdom of God, the purpose for humankind to all mankind. There is a reason for our being called and placed into the work of the church today. There’s a reason that God has placed us here.
I’ve noticed that some in the greater Church of God community believe that the only purpose for the church today is simply to prepare a people for the second coming of Christ. Now we know that that’s a major function, that’s a major responsibility; that’s a major calling that God has given to the church and to each one of us, and especially to the ministry to help prepare that body, the bride of Christ, so that she will be ready when Christ returns.
But how is that going to be accomplished when so many people are scattered, and when they’re scattered every which direction? What I have seen is that the zeal, the enthusiasm for preaching the kingdom of God has faltered among many peoples. Hopefully, and I don’t think it has among us, but hopefully not among us. Does the church, and do we individually and collectively, still have a work to do in this age? A purpose why we’re here? A calling that God has given to us?
Let’s go back very quickly and refresh our minds, Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×. We read here that:
Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version× - ". . .this gospel of the kingdom. . ." It’s talking about the coming kingdom of God, or the kingdom. ". . .will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." So, brethren, we find that the gospel is to be preached, and it is a specific message. It’s not just a social gospel. It is a gospel, the good news about the kingdom of God, and it is going to be preached, and then once that has been done, the end will come.
Now notice in Matthew 10:16 Matthew 10:16Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the middle of wolves: be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
American King James Version×. Jesus Christ clearly explained to His disciples that this would be a job that they would be involved in and that they are not going to reach everyone.
Matthew 10:16 Matthew 10:16Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the middle of wolves: be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
American King James Version× - He said: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Verse 17 - "But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues." Now notice verse 22:
Verse 22 - "And you will be hated. . ." (of all men), ". . .by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
Verse 23 - "But when they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, that you will not have gone. . ." over or ". . .through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes." So brethren, we will not have gone through every city of Israel before Jesus Christ returns to this earth.
So you see the implication is that when Christ comes back, again, His servants are faithfully out there doing a work. Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
American King James Version×, we’re all familiar that this is the charge that God has given to his church, responsibility that God has given to us.
Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
American King James Version× - Christ ". . .spoke to them. . .," (and said), (Look) ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’ " So Christ has all authority, therefore He says:
Verse 19 - "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Verse 20 - And "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."So, notice specifically what this says, that we are to go to all nations, not just to Israel, but to as many of the nations a possible, and that "Christ will be with us even to the end of the age." So you’ll find that the church will still be in existence up until the end time, and that we will still be going to the nations; we will be preaching the gospel.
You and I are living in the end time. Any way you want to count it, you can look back, and man has been on this earth approximately six thousand years, give or take a year here, or a decade there. We know that we’re very close to the end, that we live in the age that the Bible talks about.
Let’s notice back in the book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 33:1 Ezekiel 33:1Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
American King James Version×, that Ezekiel was told that he had the job of a watchman. Now, I think most of us know, brethren, that Ezekiel was in Babylonian captivity when God inspired this book, and the prophecies that are here are prophecies for our day today. And you’ll find here that Ezekiel expounds on a very important principle.
Verse 2 - " ‘Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring a sword upon a land,. . ." Where there will be warfare, invasion. . . " ‘. . .and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman. . .,’ " In ancient Israel, they had cities; they had towers; they had people who’d get up on the high mountains, and they would be the watchmen, and they would then warn the people of the oncoming or incoming destruction, and notice verse 3:
Verse 3 - " ‘when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people,
Verse 4 - " ‘then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head.’ " In other words, okay, he’s guilty of the sins, but his blood will be on his own head if he doesn’t respond.
Verse 5 - But " ‘He. . ." (who hears) ". . .’the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life.’ " Now the encouraging thing is that some people will heed the warning. When the trumpet sounds, some people would listen and heed the warning and take action.
Verse 6 - " ‘But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he’s taken away in his iniquity;’ " because of his own sins, " ‘. . .but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’
Verse 8 - "When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand."
Brethren, I want you to notice that God says when He sets a watchman, that we are to warn the people. Who is it who understands prophecy today? Who is it who understands what’s going to happen in the future? Who understands the plan of God, the purpose of God? Well, God’s church does, and we have a responsibility to take the warning to the nations. In fact, you might remember the council back in Seattle, I think that was somewhere back around ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine, somewhere in that area, issued a statement in which the council said that the Church of God, the United Church of God needed to begin in a stronger way to proclaim the message and to proclaim a warning message to this world. But that’s a component part of it, that we warn the society around us of what is coming because we understand what the sins are and what people need to repent of.
Brethren, we are here today because of God’s calling. We know that God has called us to be a part of His kingdom, but He’s also called us to help proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, and the purpose of life to society around us. And we have joined the ranks of those who have an obligation to warn this world, and God has laid that responsibility upon the shoulders of all of us, and it is a collective calling that God has given to us.
I want you to notice a principle in Acts13:36 concerning David. Acts 13:36 Acts 13:36For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid to his fathers, and saw corruption:
American King James Version×, and we’ll read first of all verse 36. We read here:
Acts 13:36 Acts 13:36For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid to his fathers, and saw corruption:
American King James Version× - "For David, after he had served his own generation. . ." Or as the margin says ". . .served in his own generation . . ." whichever way you want to translate it. ". . .by the will of God, fell asleep, but ". . .was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption." The principle is this: David served his generation according to the will of God, what God had in store for him. God had a purpose for David, and David fulfilled that purpose. Why was God able to use David? Well, notice in verse 22. It says:
Verse 22 - ". . . when he had removed him. . ." removed Saul from being king. . ."He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony. . ." saying, " ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ " You find that David was a man after God’s own heart. He had a heart that could be touched. He sought God with his whole being, and because of this he fulfilled all of God’s will for him. Part of that fulfilling was the purpose that God had called him to do. God had called him, we know, give him a chance of salvation, keep His commandments, be an example, but there were specific responsibilities and duties that God gave him to do. And God has down through the ages called his servants for specific reasons, specific purposes. Sometimes they help to fulfill prophecy. Sometimes they fulfilled prophecy. God has always left Himself a witness in every age.
If you take a quick review of the servants of God, I think you’ll see, if you just stop and think about it, that each one was called for a specific reason and purpose. Take Noah as an example. After sixteen hundred and fifty-six years of man’s existence on the earth, God brought a flood, but prior to that, one hundred twenty years, God chose Noah. Noah was a preacher of righteousness, but he also built an ark. And he was a witness to his generation of their sins. So, he was called specifically to build an ark.
Abraham was called by God to be an example to the faithful. He began the lineage of the family that God was going to work through from whom the Messiah would come. Abraham did not take the gospel to the world. That was not his calling. I don’t say he didn’t understand the gospel, but it was not his calling to try to reach every nation with the gospel.
What about Moses? God raised up Moses to lead Israel out of captivity and help establish them in the promised land. He wrote the first five books of the Bible. He didn’t have the same job as we do today. We don’t have the job of bringing the people of Israel out of captivity. Not at this time. We may be involved in that in the future. But what I’m trying to illustrate is that for each specific generation in time, God has called His servants and He’s given them specific responsibilities above and beyond what they would do to grow, overcome, so that they could be a part of His family.
What about the prophets of God? He called them to give a warning to various peoples, various nations, they fulfilled the will of God in their lives, and they also took that message. You can read the life of Ezekiel, and you can see all of the things that God had him do, from laying on his side for hundreds of days, building, you know, blocks and walls, and you know, designs to illustrate to the people what God was doing. There was a reason why God called these men, and there was a purpose for their lives. Brethren, they were all an example to the generation they lived in, and they fulfilled the purpose of their calling. There was a reason why they were called.
Let’s go back to I Chronicles 28. I refer to the example of David. Let’s go back here to I Chronicles 28:9. I want you to notice a couple of interesting verses here about David, what David did, what God accomplished through David. Here David is talking to his son Solomon who was going to succeed him. He says:
I Chronicles 28:9 - "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart." The word - loyal - the King James’ version says ". . .with a perfect heart." Or it means a complete heart, to be whole-hearted, and complete and loyal to God. ". . .and with a willing mind." That with all of his mind that he would do it very willingly. "For the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever." Now I want you to notice here what David was doing. David was passing on to his son, the next generation, the instructions on how to serve God, the purpose of God, that he was to have a loyal heart, a willing mind, that he was to seek God, and if he did not seek God, or if he forsook God, then God would forsake him.
Brethren, each generation has a responsibility to pass on to the next generation the purpose of life, the calling of God, and to be able to teach our children, our grandchildren, and the next generation that comes along. That’s one reason ABC was started, that we would be able to pass on the basic fundamental basic truths, way of life of God to the next generation. And you’ll find here David doing it to his son, imparting to him words of wisdom and instructions on how to serve the supreme God, the living God, and what God would do for him. Notice verse 20:
Verse 20 - "And David said to his son, Solomon, ‘Be strong and of good courage, and do it...’ " In other words, you do what God has laid out for you here. He was going to be building the temple. ". . .do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God - my God - will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you." Where do we read that in the Bible? We find it in the New Testament, that "I will never leave you nor forsake you." And brethren, God has called us to do a job, too. And He has promised, just like David told Solomon, "Look, you have God on your side. "God is with you; He will never forsake you." As long as you seek Him, He will seek you." And so, brethren, we find the same thing is true today. "He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord."
You and I today should not be afraid. God has promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us. As David pointed out that God would help him to finish the work that God had given him to do, which was to build the temple, the same is true today. You and I have a part in building the temple today, the spiritual temple. God will be with us to the very end of the age. God will guide us and direct us, and we can have confidence that God will help us in that calling.
Turn over to the next chapter, I Chronicles 29:17. You find that David had done his part. And you find that one of the things that David did in fulfilling, or helping to fulfill his purpose, his calling, was to gather all of the materials of the construction of the temple. So, verse 17, David said:
I Chronicles 29:17 - "I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You." David collected the materials; Solomon did the construction.
You know, God has called us also today, brethren, to have a part in doing the work of God by our example, by our involvement, and you’ll find that just as David did, you and I have to have a willing heart, a willing spirit, and you find that emphasized over and over again. This is one reason why David was a man after God’s own heart. If he saw that it was the will of God, David strove with his whole being; he was whole hearted to do what God had called him to do.
In the nineties, just reflecting back a few years ago, there was an expression that was ridiculed and made fun of. Many of you have heard it, I’m sure, many times. It was called - pray and pay, or - pay and pray, whichever way you want to express it. Members were made to doubt the importance of their prayers and the importance of their paying tithes and fasting to accomplish the work of God. In fact, many times, those who constantly talked about this expression told the people they were just simply being used, that they were being used, taken advantage of.
Now brethren, while we recognize that the membership of the church could and should be more involved, I mean, this is where a lot of this was going, because they were saying, you know, the members ought to be doing many of these things. We realize that the membership should be involved as much as they can, and United was started with that principle - collaboration, involvement of everyone. The significance of prayer and the significance of financial support in preaching the gospel has been attacked, has been put down, has been ridiculed. In a sense, it’s been made fun of, and yet when you look at what the scriptures have to say, prayer is a major way, a major component of what we have to do to accomplish the preaching of the gospel. It is a major thing that God wants us to do.
Notice over here in II Chronicles 15:12, while we’re back here. Here you’ll find the reform that was brought under Asa, and the people of Judah. It says:
II Chronicles 15:12 - "Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart with all their soul." To obey God.
Verse 15 - "And all Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and sought Him with all their soul; and He was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around." Brethren, when we pray with our whole being and seek God with our whole heart, He answers; He listens. We are His people; we are His children. And as His children, God is very concerned for all of us.
The work of God is built on the knees and the prayers of its membership, that we do pray. Do we fervently pray for the work of God? Do we break our prayers up fine? Do we constantly think about what God is doing? Do we devour, you know, take the United News publications, take those things and go over them and when we see something happening in a part of the world, we get down, and we pray for that. We ask for God’s help and to realize that if we do, James 5 tells us God’s approach. We don’t have to worry about God. It’s us that we have to worry about. But let’s notice what God’s approach is in James 5:15 James 5:15And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
American King James Version×.
James 5:15 James 5:15And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
American King James Version× - It says: "The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
Verse 16 - "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." You want to know who carries clout with God, it is those who have effective, fervent prayers. The word fervent implies, you know - being on fire, hot. It goes on to say that:
Verse 17 - "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours." He was just like us; he was human; he had human frailties, as we know and yet ". . .he prayed," and the rest of this chapter shows that God heard his prayer; God answered his prayer. Brethren, God hears, and He answers, but He wants to see what our heart is like. He tests our heart; He looks at our intent; He wants to know do we, and are we, whole-hearted.
Let’s go back to John 4 and focus here quickly on the example of Jesus Christ. I mentioned that the servants of God came to this earth for a purpose. Jesus Christ came to the earth for a purpose, to fulfill the will of God. He never for one iota forgot why He was there. He never strayed for one moment from the purpose of His being on this earth. And in John 4:34 John 4:34Jesus said to them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
American King James Version× notice what Christ said:
John 4:34 John 4:34Jesus said to them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
American King James Version× - "Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.’ " So Christ concentrated on finishing, accomplishing, doing the work that God had given to Him. Now in context of this, notice in verse 35:
Verse 35 - He said, "Do you not say,. . ." that " ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest?’ Behold, I say to you, ‘lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
Verse 36 - "And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.
Verse 37 - "For in this the saying is true: One sows, (and) another reaps.’ "
Verse 38 - Now "I sent you to reap that (for) which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labor." Brethren, we have all been called to participate in the harvest, to be a part of that, and we do so through our involvement, through our prayers, through our fasting, through our financial support, anyway that we can. Notice in John 5:36 John 5:36But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father has given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me.
American King James Version×. The book of John is good to read for this very purpose. Almost every chapter Christ is saying, "I came to do the will of the Father. I don’t speak My own words; I speak what the Father gave Me." But John 5:36 John 5:36But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father has given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me.
American King James Version× He says:
John 5:36 John 5:36But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father has given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me.
American King James Version× - "But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish the very works that I do bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.
And in John 17:4 John 17:4I have glorified you on the earth: I have finished the work which you gave me to do.
American King James Version× you might remember, John 17:4 John 17:4I have glorified you on the earth: I have finished the work which you gave me to do.
American King James Version×, Jesus Christ’s prayer here on the last Passover, He said:
John 17:4 John 17:4I have glorified you on the earth: I have finished the work which you gave me to do.
American King James Version× - "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do."
One day, brethren, you and I will be able to say, "We have finished the work that God has given us to do." But we haven’t finished yet. We are not through yet.
There are those who will say, "Well it’s all over. All we have to do is sit back and take it easy and just sort of get ready." And they never define how you "get ready." And yet, you find historically that those who have their hearts in the work, those who are involved whole-heartedly in helping to preach the gospel are the ones who seem to grow because they have a focus outside of themselves. They have a focus toward this world’s society in caring for people. Now is the time of preaching and reaping the harvest that God is preparing; God is calling.
Notice Romans 10. We know that it’s up to God to call, but yet, Romans 10:14 Romans 10:14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
American King James Version× shows that we have a part in it. Romans 10:14 Romans 10:14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
American King James Version×. God calls; God opens the mind, and yet how does He go about calling?
Romans 10:14 Romans 10:14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
American King James Version× - It says: "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom who they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
Verse 15 - "And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace. . .’ " So we find that those who are going to preach, carry the message, have to be sent, have a responsibility of going out, and then through that spreading of the seed, whether it’s by magazine, printed word, vocally, people hear, and they respond. Why is there a lack of excitement, enthusiasm, ardor, zeal, exuberance and passion for the work of God among some, not among everyone, but among some? Well, let me show you very quickly, it’s very easy to become discouraged if we’re not careful. When you look at Barna’s study, one of the things that pops out of the page of his book is prosperity, or what we might call the American dream. That the average American wants to have it all. In other words is so busy striving to have physical things that they overlook the spiritual. This is what drives society today. What I’m saying is a loss of focus, a concentration on that to the exclusion of the spiritual element you find that many people fall short.
In Revelation 3:15 Revelation 3:15I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot.
American King James Version×, the Bible predicted that the in the end time, this type of an attitude would be there, and we find here talking to the church in Laodicea:
Revelation 3:15 Revelation 3:15I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would you were cold or hot.
American King James Version× - " ‘I know your works, that you’re neither cold nor hot. I could wish that you were cold or hot.
Verse 16 - " ‘So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.
Verse 17 - " ‘Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ and do not know that you are wretched,’ and ‘. . .miserable, poor, blind, and naked.’ " Now this could be applied in both ways thinking that they are spiritually rich and perhaps physically rich. You’ll find that riches can cause a person to begin to focus on that and lose the focus of God.
In Deuteronomy 8:7 Deuteronomy 8:7For the LORD your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;
American King James Version×, when God brought Israel into the promised land, He warned them; He charged them to be careful about this very point.
Deuteronomy 8:7 Deuteronomy 8:7For the LORD your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills;
American King James Version× - "For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, fountains and springs, that flow out of. . ." the ". . .valleys and hills." And you would have to say that what is God is talking about here certainly applies to us and the abundance that God has given. But notice going on here in verse 10. It says:
Verse 10 - "When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.
Verse 11 - "Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes. . .
Verse 14 - "when your heart is lifted up and you forget the Lord your God which brought you up out of the land of Egypt. . ." So what you find here is people can become so focused on the around and making a buck that they forget God. We can be overcome by stress and the business of our lives in just trying to make ends meet that we begin to lose that zeal, that enthusiasm.
Another reason why people lose zeal and enthusiasm is in Proverbs 13:12 Proverbs 13:12Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
American King James Version×. I’ll just refer to this, Proverbs 13:12 Proverbs 13:12Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
American King James Version×which simply says:
Proverbs 13:12 Proverbs 13:12Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.
American King James Version× - "Hope deferred makes the heart sick. . ." When you have hope for something and you don’t get it, the Bible says that makes the heart sick. 1975 came and went, and we had hoped beyond hope that Christ would have been back on this earth at that time. Many of us thought our children would never go to school. You know, we thought they would never grow up; they would just sort live over into the millennium. Many of you would not have been here at that time. 1982 came. Some people changed the date. 1992 came; 1996 came. Now, 2004 is around the corner, and I’ll tell you something, 2004 is not, you can begin to count three and a half years of events that have to take place before the return of Christ, I don’t think 2004 is it either. The problem is, if there is a lesson that we’ll all learned, that is - don’t set dates. You don’t try to set the date. You’ll realize what the Bible says we need to be doing and being involved in the business that God has called us to do.
You know, Jesus Christ did not come back on those dates, but He will. We are closer today than any time in the history of mankind to the return of Christ. But notice the warning in Matthew 24:45 Matthew 24:45Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
American King James Version×. Here at the end of the Olivet prophecy, we find:
Matthew 24:45 Matthew 24:45Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
American King James Version× - " ‘Who then is a faithful and wise servant . . .’ " This is what we’re looking for, those who are going to be faithful and wise. " ‘whom his master. . .’ " will make " ‘. . .ruler over his household, to give them food in due season.
Verse 46 - " ‘Blessed is that servant whom His master, when He comes, will find so doing.’ " Will be involved in the work of the master, helping others.
Verse 47 - Surely ". . .I say to you that he will make him ruler over all of his goods.
Verse 48 - "But if that evil servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying His coming. . .’ " See, He didn’t come back in ’75, or ’82, or ’92, or 2004, whatever date it might be. And . . .
Verse 49 - He " ‘. . . begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards,
Verse 50 - And " ‘the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware. . .’ " So people can begin to think, well, Christ has delayed His coming; therefore His servants can begin to lose focus, can begin to do other things. Brethren, we cannot lose the focus of the calling that God has given to us, and that we still have a responsibility and a job to do. And I know that it is very easy, you know, hope has been deferred. It’s sort of like running a race. I remember this principle when I was at Ambassador College. We used to do morning track. We’d run eight laps and our squad leader said we were going to run eight laps. I was all geared up for eight laps. Eight came, I stopped; he kept going. And they ran another lap. You know, I just couldn’t get myself back up. You know, I had geared up for eight, I stopped, I ran another lap or two, and it taught me a very important lesson. You don’t quit; you just keep going and going, and when the race is over, the race is over. Well what we have to realize is that some, because of this, have lost hope.
In II Thessalonians 3:12 we find another reason sometimes why our hard earned zeal and enthusiasm can decline.
II Thessalonians 3:12 - It says, "Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
Verse 13 - "But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in well doing." You’ll find that it is easy to grow weary in well doing, if you just keep doing the same thing.
As Titus 2:14 Titus 2:14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
American King James Version× says that you and I are to be ". . .zealous of good works." Titus 2:14 Titus 2:14Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
American King James Version×. The word - zealous - means - a zealout - someone who is a zealot, full of zeal for his cause, his purpose.
What you find, many of us have been around for a long time, have we not? You know, I could go and I could ask, "Okay, who’s been here from the 50’s, the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s," and many have born the heat of the day, had young families, reared their families, and by now have retired. And we’re older. We don’t have the same energy, don’t have the same drive, don’t have the same get up and go; our giddiup is gone. And, you know, we still try to do it, but you find sometimes we get weary. But we still have to have the same love, the same concern for people.
We realize that a younger generation has to come along and take our place, that you know, the next generation who will do maybe a lot of the actual work, but we still have a work to finish. We can still pray. As long as God gives us our faculties, our mental faculties, we can still pray. We can still seek God. So brethren we need to realize we have a work to finish. One other reason why you find sometimes we lose our zeal is Hebrews 3:12 Hebrews 3:12Take heed, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
American King James Version×, where we find:
Hebrews 3:12 Hebrews 3:12Take heed, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
American King James Version× - "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.
Verse 13 - "But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." You’ll find the effect of sin, just a sinful society, a way of life can have its bearing upon us, and we can be hardened through the deceitfulness of sins.
It’s like Matthew 24:12-13 Matthew 24:12-13  And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.  But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
American King James Version× says:
Matthew 24:12 Matthew 24:12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
American King James Version× - ". . .Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow (wax) cold." Remember all the quotes I gave to you earlier from George Barna to begin the sermon? Although the trends that we see in society today, the lack of values, selfishness, lack of close relationship, lack of faith, cynical, me first, selfishness and all of this? This is what we have to resist. This is what Satan is constantly throwing at us, and it does wear off on us. So brethren, these are some of the factors, I am sure you can think of many more, why sometimes our zeal can wane.
God knows our limitations. He tries the heart to see if we are whole-hearted, as David explained. God is looking for a people who are zealous of good works. Who will complete the work that He has given them to do in our generation. What has God given us to do? To take the gospel of the kingdom of God to the world, and as long as He allows us to do a work, until He closes the door, brethren, we have that responsibility. We need to watch; we need to make sure that apathy and indifference does not set in.
As Ecclesiastes 9:10 Ecclesiastes 9:10Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.
American King James Version× states: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might. . ." or do it with your might. We understand the purpose of life, that people are searching for. As Barna said, "Only one out of twenty people have any inkling of why they’re here." And I would doubt those others really understand why they’re here. We know why we’re alive. We know what the purpose of life is, and we have a message that we can take to this world that will give them hope, and God has given us that responsibility.
And so through our prayers, our tithes, our offerings, our fasting, our involvement, our dedication, we all have a part in doing that work. Remember this, God has called us to take His message to our generation.