Sermon Illustrations

Discipleship Calls for Wholehearted Commitment to Christ

“I have seen the most horrible things, but I have met people who are still full of faith in spite of what they have endured.”

That was the opening statement to a gathering of leaders and supporters of Samaritan’s Purse, the organization led by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham. The speaker was Matt Nowery, who serves with Samaritan’s Purse in Sudan, the most dangerous place in Africa and perhaps the entire world.

His speech continued, “Eighteen months ago I was at home, a recent graduate of the University of Georgia waiting on an opportunity, looking for a place to commit my life.”

Matt then turned to face Franklin Graham.

“Mr. Graham,” he said, “this is the first time since the day you gave me the opportunity in Sudan that I have been able to thank you publicly. So, tonight, in front of all these people, I want to say thank you for challenging a young man like me to wholehearted commitment to Christ.”

Now, let me rewind the story a bit to eighteen months earlier. Matt’s father, Kirk, was a friend of Franklin Graham. Not long after Matt (and his older sister, Ashley) had graduated from college, Franklin called Kirk in the middle of the night.

“Kirk,” he said, “this is Franklin. Hope I’m not calling too late. I have had your kids on my heart. I heard that they are at transitional points in their lives, out of college, and looking for something beyond the mundane. I have a little project I want to present to them. Could all of you come up here to talk about it?”

The next day the family talked about it, and Kirk, his wife Denise, Matt, and Matt’s older sister Ashley (a nursing school graduate), went to visit Franklin Graham at Samaritan’s Purse.

After a few pleasantries were exchanged, Franklin turned to Ashley and said, “Sudan is the most desperately needy country in the world. There’s been a civil war there for decades, and the U.N. calls it the most dangerous place on earth. We have a field hospital near the Darfur region where we treat people there who have been shot, beaten, slashed with machetes, and tortured by Muslim forces from the north. There’s also every kind of disease you can imagine, and if that wasn’t bad enough, our hospital has been bombed seven times. These people are going through so much, and I think that when this kind of thing is happening, the first hand to reach out to people in need should be the hand of Jesus. We are that hand. Ashley, you’re a talented nurse and I want to invite you to join our team at the hospital in Lui.”

Ashley’s parents were shocked. But before they could say anything, Ashley said, “Mr. Graham, my daddy trusts you and we’ve always been taught to live by faith and make strong commitments. I believe God has prepared me for this, so sign me up.”

Kirk Nowery was thinking to himself, Sign me up? Doesn’t this require a family meeting? No one asked me for a vote.

He looked at his wife, Denise, and she was speechless too. Before either parent could say a word, Franklin turned to Matt and said, “Matt, I want to talk to you about a tougher assignment.”

A tougher assignment? Kirk thought. Are you kidding me?

Franklin continued, “In southern Sudan we have identified more than 200 churches that radical Muslims have either bombed, burned or looted. In many of the churches they locked the people inside, tied the pastors to the doors and burned them to the ground.”

He paused, letting the picture form in everyone’s minds.

“Matt,” he said, “I want you to go in and get the names and stories of every pastor that has been killed. I want you to get the names of all the Christians who have been killed and all the churches that have been destroyed. And I want you to commit to leading the effort to build five churches for every one that has been destroyed and to raise up five pastors for every one who has been martyred. Jesus Christ will stand in the end.”

Matt’s exact answer was, “Mr. Graham, I can’t let my sister make me look bad. Sign me up, too.”

On the way home, Matt and Ashley reminded their parents that they had raised them for big challenges and to respond with wholehearted commitment. And that is exactly what they had done.

Ashley worked in an indescribably intense setting at the hospital in Lui, often experiencing more heart-wrenching moments in a single day than many people experience in a lifetime. She was even attacked by radical Muslim soldiers who killed one of her patients in front of her. But she continued to serve because of her wholehearted commitment.

Now, back to the gathering at Samaritan’s Purse. Matt went on to say, “My team and I have recorded the stories of 429 Christian pastors who have been tortured and martyred in Sudan. In most cases, their church buildings were destroyed, sometimes burned down with the church members locked inside. The Christians are victims in a reign of violence driven by the fierce Muslim government in the north. They have been severely persecuted, and many have died, but others are waiting to take their place.”

At the end of his speech, Matt walked over to where Franklin Graham was seated and looked straight at him.

“Mr. Graham,” he said, “Thank you again for challenging me, for asking me to make a difference, for calling on me to make my life count for the kingdom of God. Please don’t ever stop challenging young people to wholehearted commitment to Christ.”

Lesson

Only a few people are called to serve in a place like Sudan. However, all of are called to wholehearted commitment wherever God places us. But what does wholehearted commitment look like? Let me give you the priorities of wholehearted commitment.

From a sermon by Freddy Fritz, Wholehearted Commitment, 10/31/2009

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