Summary: a sermon about decision-making. Often times, in the “gray areas”, we simply need to decide what things in life are most important to God. We need to straighten out our priorities.
I want clear instructions. Here are some examples of instructions that, for one reason or another, weren’t made very clearly:
• “Do not sit in chair without being fully assembled”
• “Please take time to look over the brochure enclosed with your family”
• at a private school grounds: “No trespassing without permission”
• brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo, Japan: When passage of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.”
• at a zoo: “Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.”
• cemetery in PA - “Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.”
• highway in OH - “Drive slower when wet.”
• in the vestry of a New England church: “Will the last person to leave please see that the perpetual light is extinguished.”
There are essentials in life that are pretty clear cut:
Do not drink Drano; stay out of the lion’s cage; Do not jump from the bridge; Keep hands and feet inside of car until the ride stops; don’t run with scissors; don’t put your hand near the mouth of the angry snapping turtle, and by all means, don’t pick it or it will never heal! Very practical essentials for life. No questioning the rightness of those things.
There are also biblical essentials that are pretty clear cut:
Take care of widows and orphans; don’t take the Lord’s name in vain; Be generous; Love one another; Keep yourselves from idols; Don’t cause others to stumble. Very straightforward. No questioning the rightness of those things. No, it’s not a matter of interpretation. The Scriptures are actually very clear on essentials, and honest people seeking God’s word on issues that matter can understand them. Black and White.
Then, there are the questions where the zebra’s stripes have kind of run together in the wash. We have to be honest this morning and admit that life has “gray areas” where there’s no direct Bible example, no "Thus saith the Lord." What do we do then? How do we decide what to do when there just doesn’t seem to be a clear answer?
You thought I was going to speak about alcohol this morning. This is a sermon about decision-making. Often times, in the “gray areas”, we simply need to decide what things in life are most important to God. We need to straighten out our priorities.
We need this in our everyday decision making and thought processes. What does God want our priorities to be? If we’d just stop and ask that question, we’d make a lot wiser decisions more quickly. We’d be confident that our actions are pleasing to God.
I’m convinced, As a church family, we’ve got to be asking this all-important question: "Are the things at which we’re working the hardest the things about which God cares the most?" The places where we’re using our budget, where we’re asking for the most help, where we’re making the most announcements and placing our focus – are those the things where God really wants us to spend our chips? And the things that we’re not giving much attention – is it OK in God’s plan for us to let those go?
How much should we give to missions? How many missions should we support? Which ones? How much should we be involved in functions at other congregations? How should we advertise ourselves? How much should we spend on it? Do we reach out to our community enough?
Some of these questions are easier to answer than others, but not one of them is answered directly in the Scriptures, and they’re the kinds of questions that many people have fought and divided over. They’re questions of quantity and priority.
When we leave the church building, things don’t change much: How many children should we have? How many cars should we own? Where should we live? How much should we give to the church? Do we spend enough time together as a family? Should we own or rent a house? Should I change jobs? Should both of us work? Should we do business locally? Should I send my child to a Christian School?
We could handle these and lots of other questions better if we’d could just answer "What matters most to God?"
The story we read today helps us to see that in the life of Jesus. I think we’ll see that Jesus gives some attention to everyday problems, but Jesus’ greater concern addresses life’s more important issues.
I. Jesus cares about our everyday problems
Everyone has them. So does every wedding…
Charles and Darlene Colliver’s wedding – at a small church in IN. The front is adorned with a set of candelabra in front of the baptistry, where there hangs a velvet curtain. Anytime the door at the other end of the auditorium is opened, a rush of air pulls the curtains forward. The door opens, and you guessed it, suddenly the curtains hanging in front of the baptistry are in flames.