Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: All have sinned; that holds back from being what we could be. Admit that sin is real; acknowledge responsbility for its consequences; see that always there is a price to be paid for sin, but Jesus paid it all. Montgomery Hills Baptist Church

The longer we live, the more we have to be thankful for. Isn’t that true? The longer we live, the more blessings we receive, and therefore the more we have to be thankful for. If you are thirty years old, you can count your blessings, name them one by one. If you are fifty years old, you can count your many blessings, see what God has done. And if you are a few months short of seventy – well, let’s not go there, as I have forgotten how to count! Nonetheless, the longer we live, the more we have to be thankful for.

But it is also true that the longer we live, the more we have to be forgiven for. Count that too: the longer we live, the more mistakes we make, the more people we hurt, the more wrong directions we take, and so the more we have to be forgiven for. Someone asked me how long I was pastor at Takoma Park, and when I told him, “Eighteen years,” he said, “Well, that’s eighteen years of opportunities to upset people”. Yes, it is. And I did. The longer we live the more we have to be forgiven for.

So what happens as we accumulate errors and multiply mistakes? We become acutely aware that there are folks out there who have not forgiven us. There are plenty of people who are not at peace with us. We accumulate regrets and reasons to feel guilty. And so the longer we live with that the more likely we are to thrash. To thrash. Do you know that word? “Thrashing” is waving your arms and legs around wildly. “Thrashing” is jumping here and there, trying to find a solution to your problem. “Thrashing” is what you do when you are in a panic and think you are in terrible trouble.

Just a couple of months after Margaret and I were married, we were with a youth group from our church in Louisville. We went to a state park for a swimming outing. I thought the floor of this man-made lake would be a gradual, easy slope, and so, though I am not a swimmer, wanting to impress, I waded out farther and farther, until the water was chest high. But guess what? There was a sharp drop-off out there; I stepped into it and went under that water, sinking like a lump of lead. Margaret quickly calculated that she was not ready to lose her husband of only two months, and so rushed in to pull me out. As I lay panting and puffing on the beach, she told me I really made it hard for her to rescue me, because my arms and legs were thrashing in all directions! When you think you are about to drown in all the mess you have made, you thrash around, desperate for something to grip, but you only make the problem worse.

Thrashing is what we do spiritually when we see that we are drowning in a host of unforgiven issues. We complain, we blame, we go into depression, we worry. And none of it works. Thrashing isn’t going to work. It’s threshing, not thrashing, that we want. Get the distinction between the words. Threshing, not thrashing. More on that in a moment.

David, King of Israel, had been on his throne for a long time. Nigh on to forty years of fighting the Philistines, consolidating power, dealing with palace intrigues, parenting ungrateful children, and on and on. As David came toward the end of his reign, and things were still not fully settled, with hostility here and there around Israel, David started thrashing. He just wanted to do something, anything, to get himself together. So what did David do? He ordered a census. He commanded a nose-count all over the land.

Now don’t think of this like our American census, where we count people and ask them questions every ten years. No, David’s census was about identifying every able-bodied man in the Kingdom, planning to draft them for military service. This was the first step toward conscription. The census-takers reported only on men able to draw the sword. The king was thrashing about for something, anything, to consolidate his power and put down dissent. But what he did caused an outcry. It steamed up the people. It turned even David’s most loyal followers against him. He had made a huge mistake with his census. Thrashing about only makes a problem worse.

Remember the premise of the morning: that the longer we live, the more we do that has to be forgiven. We thrash, we grab, we push, we try anything to get ourselves out of the mess we’re in. And it only gets worse. Thrashing around creates spiritual weariness and guilt. The answer is not in thrashing but in threshing. But, still, more on threshing in a moment.

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