Summary: Third in revival series at Emmaus Baptist Church, Quinton, VA: Dialogical (sought testimonies from audience at selected intervals). We may feel that our investment in faith is a waste; but it will not be if we can learn to grow in relationships.
I hate waste. I despise it when I find out I have wasted something valuable – time or money or effort. Don’t you? Doesn’t it just frustrate you immensely if all your good work goes down the tubes?
When I first learned to use a computer, I didn’t know you could set a word processor on auto-save. Auto-save means that you can instruct your computer to save your work every few minutes or so, and that way if something happens, like a power outage or a miscue, at least you don’t lose everything. But before I knew how to do that, there were a few bitter Saturday nights, when I thought I had the sermon almost written, only to find out that I had pushed “Delete” instead of “Save”, and lost it all. So much work for next to nothing! (However, when I rewrote a couple of those sermons, I think the second version turned out better than the first; there’s a lesson in there somewhere!). But I hate to waste time and energy.
I hate to waste money too. I come from a family that didn’t have a whole lot. My father was born in 1902 in rural Indiana. He went one year to college, but ran out of money. He was the fifth of six children, and there were just more kids than cash. So from him, I expect, a got a frugal attitude. It destroys me when I buy something and it doesn’t work. It pains me when I spend my money on something and it isn’t satisfactory.
Several years ago I bit on an ad that said for $5.00 I could buy a device that would increase the gas mileage on my car. When it came it was a block of metal with a pipe in over here and another pipe out over there, and the instructions were that I should cut an inch or two out of the gasoline line running to the carburetor on my car, and install this gizmo. Well, with fear and trembling I got out my hacksaw and performed the installation. I drove it around a couple of days and didn’t really notice anything in particular. But then my wife drove on the highway, with our then small son strapped in, and when she got home, did she have a tale to tell! The car had stalled out on the road … she managed to get it to a garage … and the mechanic said, “You are one lucky lady; whatever that thing is in there was leaking, and you almost had a fire!”. Well, I was scared – I could have killed my family; I was embarrassed, because I hadn’t told my wife what I was doing; and – you got it – I was angry to be out five whole dollars for a nothing deal, plus the cost of the mechanic to put it right! I hate waste.
And so did Paul. Paul hated spiritual waste and emotional garbage. It troubled him greatly that the people in whom he had invested so much had apparently forgotten it all. He was bothered at the thought of so much energy spent on a people who promptly forgot everything. It reminds me of one student I tried to teach a year or two ago; I saw him in another setting a month after class was over, and something came up that we had covered in class. When I reminded him that we had touched on that subject, he said, “Oh, that was last semester. I’m not into that anymore.” Pity the poor church that calls him as pastor! I hate to waste my breath on people who have no intention of learning anything!
But more than the waste of his own energies, I think Paul is disturbed at the forgetfulness and the distortions that the Galatian Christians exhibit. They have been taught the Gospel. They have been led to understand the meaning of Christ and His cross. They have even felt the presence of the Holy Spirit of God. But … but … Paul cries out, “Did you experience so much for nothing?” Have you wasted and thrown away everything that has been invested in you?
Tonight, we’re going to explore this idea of spiritual waste. Emotional garbage. We’re going to ask ourselves Paul’s question, “Did you experience so much for nothing?” I’m going to pose a series of questions to you, and encourage you to respond. I’ll try to build on what you have to say, and together we’ll create this message. The best messages, after all, are not those spoken by a single speaker orating from on high; the most important messages are those we share with each other. I can tell you I come a lot closer to remembering things I have learned in conversation with others than I do in recalling things taught in the classroom. I guess I am a bit like that student I mentioned! But together, let’s explore Paul’s important question, “Did you experience so much for nothing?”