Summary: Disciple involves our complete commitment to Christ.
Iliff and Saltillo UM churches
January 5, 2003
“Placing Your All at God’s Disposal”
INTRODUCTION: Have you ever had days when you couldn’t feel the presence of God, you couldn’t get your prayers answered, you felt out of touch with God and it was an overall “gray, dreary, miserable day”? Maybe weeks and months and even years even went by and one New Year after another rolled by. You were still not where you wanted to be. Maybe you are like this today at the beginning of another new year.
The situation for the people in today’s scripture was pretty much like this and had been like this for about 20 years. What happened was that the Ark of the Covenant which represented God’s presence among them had been taken by the Philistines in war and when they finally got it back they treated it with irreverence and God’s wrath came down upon them. They became fearful and just wanted to “park it” someplace. For 20 years the Ark of the Covenant was stored at Abinidab’s house. During this period of time the people did not experience the presence of God. They wandered off to serve the foreign gods of the Canaanite culture and they lived in constant fear of the Philistine armies. They were getting to the point that they didn’t like to have this kind of life, and they began to search for God and to pray more than they ever had in many years. At this time in history the prophet, Samuel, was on the scene and this is where today’s scripture begins. What can we get out of today’s scripture that will help us as we move into the New Year?
1. God Gives Us a Choice: Samuel said to the people, “IF you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, THEN rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Astoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve Him only and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines” (vs. 3).
Up to this point the people had only sought God on their own terms. They also were drawn away by the Canaanite culture around them to also serve Baal and Ashtoreth. They made up their own “designer religion” mixing parts of one thing or another from the surrounding culture. They split their attention between God and other gods. As a result, they wandered far away from the true God of Israel and forfeited the blessings.
This is the same thing that is happening today to many people. They serve God but only on their own terms. Samuel is saying to them, “IF you are returning to God, THEN...” God always gives us a choice. He gives us an invitation...and we make the response. For 20 years these people suffered the consequences of decisions that put them outside the umbrella of God’s blessing and protection. They found that they needed God in the middle of their otherwise gray and dreary days. They found that serving God on their own terms didn’t work. Things don’t go right for us when we split our attention between God and other gods.
Samuel said to them, “IF YOU are ready to give him your EXCLUSIVE ATTENTION...Commit yourselves to the Lord and serve Him ONLY.”
When you are presented with this choice today at the beginning of the New Year, what is your decision--is it a struggle for you to give God your EXCLUSIVE attention or do you say, “that’s too much to ask of me.” I’ve got too many other things going for me right now.” That would cost me too much in time, my interests, and my commitments.” Listen to the excuses that others make for not serving God. Listen to your own excuses.
NEW YEARS LETTER TO THE PASTOR
You often stress attendance at worship as being very important for a Christian, but I think a person has a right to miss now and then. I think every person ought to be excused for the following reasons and the number of times indicated.
Christmas Holidays (the Sunday before & after) 2
New Year’s Worship (the party lasted too long) 1
Easter (get away for the holidays) 2
July 4th (national holidays) 1
Labor Day (need to get away) 2
Memorial Day (visit hometown folk) 1
School closing (kids need a break) 1
School reopens (one last fling) 1
Family reunions (mine & wife’s) 2
Sleep late (stayed up too long Saturday night) 9
Deaths in family 2
Anniversary (second honeymoon) 1
Sickness (one per family member) 5
Business trip (a must) 1
Vacation (three to four weeks) 6
Bad weather (ice, snow, rain, clouds) 3
Ball games 2
Unexpected company (can’t walk out) 2
Time changes (spring & fall) 2