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Sermon: THE DAY BEFORE ETERNITY
Scope: This sermon should challenge every listener to examine their relationship with Christ.
Summary: In light of the fact that we may be living in the day before eternity we should use our time, talents, and treasures to glorify God.
Segue: I want to share some truths with you that will prepare you for life and eternal life.
Introduction: John was born in 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts. He attended school at Harvard University. He was the author of two books. One was his thesis at Harvard, which was entitled Why England Slept. The other was Profiles in Courage, which won him a Pulitzer Price.
He was the Captain of a PT boat in World War II, and was decorated for his heroic rescue of the crew of his PT -- 109 after it was sunk. He was sunk. He was nominated for the Presidency with Lyndon Johnson as his running mate in 1960. His platform was formed from this statement: "We stand today on the edge of a new frontier."
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected as the 35th President of the United States. JFK was 43 years old when he became president making him the youngest man to ever be elected president. We all know the rest of the story. While traveling through Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated.
I didn't know John F. Kennedy. I was not even born when he was assassinated. All I have to go by is what history has recorded for us. However, there is one thing I am pretty sure about this man. I am pretty sure he never intended for November 22, 1963 to be the day before eternity.
Robert Green was born June 5th, 1935. After high school he joined the US Navy from which he retired. He was a good husband, a wonderful father of two children, and the best uncle a boy could have ever had. After retiring from the Navy, Uncle Bobby settled his family in Panama City Florida where he worked as a Cable Television Technician. On September 16th, 1982, at the age of 47, Uncle Bobby fell dead from a heart attack while at work. I knew my Uncle Bobby very well. He was a man who rarely got sick. I know that he never expected September 16th, 1982 to be his day before eternity.
Lester Lecroy was one of twelve children. He grew up in a home of very meager means. He was a rambunctious, but dependable young man. While cooling off after a hard days work in a creek at a little place we called the Iron Bridge on Cotton Hill Road in Eufaula, Alabama Lester Lecroy lost his life at age 16. I knew Lester Lecroy. I know that he never thought that dreadful day would be his day before eternity.
Whether well-known or unknown, we are no different than any of the three men mentioned earlier. God's Word tells us that no one of us is promised tomorrow. In fact we do not know what the next breath may bring.
CLOSING STORY: “On Courage”
Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at Stanford Hospital, I got to know a little girl named
Liza who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a
blood transfusion from her five-year-old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and
had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her
little brother, and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate
for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, ‘Yes, I’ll do it if it will save Liza.’
“As the transfusion progressed, he lay in a bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing
the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the
doctor and asked with a trembling voice, ‘Will I start to die right away?’
“Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give her all his blood.
(Chicken Soup for the Soul)
This story so beautifully illustrates for us the extravagant love of God.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13).
I read recently the story of a 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident.
The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn’t understand why, after three months of training, the master had taught him only one move.
"Sensei," the boy finally said, "Shouldn’t I be learning more moves?"
"This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you’ll ever need to know," the sensei replied. Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training.
Several months later, the sensei took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match.
Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals. This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be overmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the sensei intervened. "No," the sensei insisted, "Let him continue."
Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion.
On the way home, the boy and the sensei reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind: "Sensei, how did I win the tournament with only one move?"
"You won for two reasons," the sensei answered. "First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm."
The boy’s biggest weakness had become his biggest strength.
The Unbaptized Arm
Ivan the Great was the tsar of all of Russia during the Fifteenth Century. He brought together the warring tribes into one vast empire--the Soviet Union. As a fighting man he was courageous. As a general he was brilliant. He drove out the Tartars and established peace across the nation.
However, Ivan was so busy waging his campaigns that he did not have a family. His friends and advisers were quite concerned. They reminded him that there was no heir to the throne, and should anything happen to him the union would shatter into chaos. "You must take a wife who can bear you a son." The busy soldier statesman said to them that he did not have the time to search for a bride, but if they would find a suitable one, he would marry her.
The counselors and advisers searched the capitals of Europe to find an appropriate wife for the great tsar. And find her, they did. They reported to Ivan of the beautiful dark eyed daughter of the King of Greece. She was young, brilliant, and charming. He agreed to marry her sight unseen.
The King of Greece was delighted. It would align Greece in a favorable way with the emerging giant of the north. But there had to be one condition, "He cannot marry my daughter unless he becomes a member of the Greek Orthodox Church." Ivan’s response, "I will do it!"
So, a priest was dispatched to Moscow to instruct Ivan in Orthodox doctrine. Ivan was a quick student and learned the catechism in record time. Arrangements were concluded, and the tsar made his way to Athens accompanied by 500 of his crack troops--his personal palace guard.
He was to be baptized into the Orthodox church by immersion, as was the custom of the Eastern Church. His soldiers, ever loyal, asked to be baptized also. The Patriarch of the Church assigned 500 priests to give the soldiers a one-on-one catechism crash course. The soldiers, all 500 of them, were to be immersed in one mass baptism. Crowds gathered from all over Greece.
What a sight that must have been, 500 priests and 500 soldiers, a thousand people, walking into the blue Mediterranean. The priests were dressed in black robes and tall black hats, the official dress of the Orthodox Church. The soldiers wore their battle uniforms with of all their regalia--ribbons of valor, medals of courage. and their weapons of battle.
Suddenly, there was a problem. The Church prohibited professional soldiers from being members; they w...
A. Todd Coget
[Courageous Fishers of Men, Citation: Eugene A Maddox, Interlachen, Florida; source: The Perfect Storm]
The movie, The Perfect Storm, well described the dangers of the fishing industry through the eyes of the crew of the fishing boat, the Andrea Gail.
Out of their need to bring home an excellent catch of fish, the captain and crew decide to risk everything and travel as far as the remote but fertile fishing ground called the Flemish Cap. It is an especially dangerous trek during the unpredictably stormy month of October.
On their way back to Gloucester, Massachusetts, the Andrea Gail encounters the "perfect storm" of 1991 and is never heard from again.
While improvements in shipbuilding, navigational technology, weather-reporting and rescue support have made boating safer, fishing has become, if anything, a more lethal occupation, killing more of its workers per capita than any other job in the United States.
"There are many kinds of work that are dangerous, but one of the interesting things about fishing is that it really hasn’t changed much over time," says The Perfect Storm author Sebastian Junger. "It’s been mechanized, of course, but the basic reality of going to sea for months at a stretch is the same as it was 100 years ago. You’re way beyond help from anyone else; you’re on your own. I think that forms a certain kind of character. Not only does everyone know someone who has died at sea but everyone who works in the fishing industry has almost died. Every single fisherman you talk to has almost gotten nailed at one time or another."
It takes courage to be a fisherman. And it takes courage to fish for the souls of people.
I read a recent magazine article about a pastor and his encounter with some unbelievers while having breakfast. Here is how he tells the story: “My wife and I were vacationing in Estes Park, Colorado, and had breakfast in a coffee shop. It was empty except for four men at another table. One was mocking Christianity; in particular, the resurrection of Christ. He went on and on about what a stupid teaching that was. I could feel the Lord asking me: ‘Are you going to let this go unchallenged?’ However I was thinking, But I don’t even know these guys. He’s bigger than me. He’s got cowboy boots on and looks tough. I was agitated and frightened about doing anything. But I knew I had to stand for Jesus. Finally, I told Susan to pray. I took my last drink of water and went over and challenged him. With probably a squeaky voice, I said, ‘I’ve been listening to you, and you don’t know what you’re talking about ’ I did my best to give him a flying rundown of the proofs for the resurrection. He was speechless, and I was half dead. I must have shaken for an hour after that. But I had to take a stand. We cannot remain anonymous in our faith forever. God has a way of flushing us out of our quiet little places, and when he does we must be ready to speak for him.”
Now I admire this pastor’s courage and his determination to be a witness, regardless of how difficult it was. A lot of Christians would have just sat there in fear or fumed, thinking about how terrible the things were that these men were saying. I realize that I have the opportunity of looking back with hindsight on the situation, but I wonder if there wasn’t another possible approach that may have been more positive, and perhaps had more impact, than rattling off a list of rational arguments for the resurrection. It seems to me that he missed the most important and impressive proof of the resurrection — his own life. I wonder if it would not have been more effective to walk over to the men at the table and say something like this: “You know, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and found it very interesting. If you don’t mind, I would like to pay for all of your breakfasts. The reason I want to do this is that, because of the resurrection, Jesus Christ has changed my life and lives in me, and wants to communicate his tremendous love for you.”
Rational arguments do not change people, changed lives do. Changed lives change the lives of others, and thereby change the world. It is how we challenge the unbelief of a skeptical world. But not only would it possibly have been a stronger witness, it would have been an excellent use of money to buy their breakfasts. I think the point in what Jesus was saying in our Scripture reading this morning was that people are always the priority. Helping people, whether physically or spiritually, is to be given priority over serving ourselves — especially when it comes to money. But money is usually our last holdout in our walk with God. It is what we surrender last. As you grow in the Christian life you realize that it is not your money anyway. Everything you own already belongs to God. It is a gift, a loan from him.
“Dr. Garl Restored My Sight!”
There was this soft-spoken man who was a commuter on the Long Island Railroad—on the five o’clock local. Every evening, after the train had left the subway, he would begin a journey through the car from front to back. At each seat he would stop and say, “Excuse me. But if any of your friends are blind, tell them to consult Dr. Garl. He restored my sight.”
Why don’t we have that same courage and conviction and boldness?
Miss Thompson taught Teddy Stallard in the fourth grade. He was a slow, unkempt student, a loner shunned by his classmates. The previous year his mother died, and what little motivation for school he may have once had was now gone. Miss Thompson didn’t particularly care for Teddy either, but at Christmas time he brought her a small present. Her desk was covered with well-wrapped presents from the other children, but Teddy’s came in a brown sack. When she opened it there was a gaudy rhinestone bracelet with half the stones missing and a bottle of cheap perfume. The children began to snicker but Miss Thompson saw the importance of the moment. She quickly splashed on some perfume and put on the bracelet, pretending Teddy had given her something special. At the end of the day Teddy worked up enough courage to softly say, "Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother . . . and her bracelet looks real pretty on you too. I’m glad you like my presents." After Teddy left, Miss Thompson got down on her knees and prayed for God’s forgiveness. She prayed for God to use her as she sought to not only teach these children but to love them as well. She became a new teacher. She lovingly helped students like Teddy, and by the end of the year he had caught up with most of the students. Miss Thompson didn’t hear from Teddy for a long time. Then she received this note: "Dear Miss Thompson, I wanted you to be the first to know. I will be graduating second in my class. Love, Teddy Stallard." Four years later she got another note: "Dear Miss Thompson, They just told me I will be graduating first in my class. I wanted you to be the first to know. The university has not been easy, but I liked it. Love, Teddy Sta...
As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.
Gary Thomas, Christianity Today, October 3, 1994, p. 26.
Sermon Central Staff
It’s said that when Henry Ward Beecher was a boy, he had a teacher at school who asked one of the boys in class a question which the boy answered. The teacher became angry and told the boy he was wrong and commanded him to: "Sit down!" The boy was obviously confused because he’d thought he’d answered correctly, but he sat abruptly down.
Several boys were asked the same question, they gave the same answer and promptly rebuked by their teacher. Finally Beecher was asked to stand and answer the question. He gave the same answer and was commanded "Sit down!" But Beecher held his ground and insisted that the answer was correct.
For a few moments the teacher stormed at him, but seeing Beecher wasn’t going to give up he smiled and said,
"Well, boys, you were all correct, but Beecher was the only one sure enough to stand up for it.”
Many people have lost their faith in Christ because they simply lacked the courage to stand up for what they believed. They had grown so used to apologizing for their faith that once someone mounted a serious challenge to that faith they just gave up and sat down.
(From a sermon by Jeff Strite, Confession Is Good For the Soul, 10/24/2010)