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Sermon Text for August 11, 2013
"God Cares for You" #80-49 Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 11, 2013 By Rev. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker (What Is Evangelism and Whose Job Is It?) Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Luke 12:22-34
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father, the One who cares for you in Christ, with an everlasting, worry-overcoming love. Amen.
Back in the spring of 2006, Astronaut Jeff Williams blasted off in the space shuttle on his way to the International Space Station. Now, Jeff is a member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Houston. During that summer, while he was still on his six-month mission, he planned to connect to his home congregation during a worship service via the space station's communication system.
The connection between earth and outer space is amazing, isn't it? Oh, the things we can do in this age of cell phones, and computers, and technology. But, even with those technologies, Jeff and his colleagues, they still needed the basics. They needed an ongoing supply of food, water, clothing, and maintenance items so that they could survive in the cold and foreboding confines of space for the long haul. The achievement of putting people in space was wonderful, but even there the essentials were needed to survive.
So, NASA supplied what they needed. Several times a year, unmanned supply-spacecrafts are loaded with all the essentials--including letters from home. They are launched into orbit with their payload so that they could dock with the International Space Station. Once connected to the space station, the supply craft becomes additional living space for the astronauts, until the next ship arrives. Tens of millions of dollars are invested in these disposable supply spaceships! Why? Because the investment is worth it, the supplies are needed, lives are at stake.
So, when Jeff Williams blasted off for his six-month mission in space, he wasn't worried about his shopping list. He wasn't fretting about having water or food. He knew that supplies would be there. That was the one thing he could count on. And, if there happened to be some glitches here on earth, he knew that the people on this planet would do everything possible to make certain that he and his fellow astronauts were taken care of. He was confident that the people on earth were committed to him and would not let him down.
So, if NASA cares about its astronauts, if private companies are investing billions of dollars to also get food to those people, if the most advanced technology and most brilliant minds are being used to provide for a few people 240 miles above the earth, how do you think the Creator and Savior, our God, how do you think He feels about caring for His people--caring for you? If that's your question today my friend, I'm very glad to tell you that Jesus gives you and me a direct answer. In Luke chapter 12, He describes God's commitment to investing in you, investing in your life.
He says, "Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they neither have storehouses nor barns, and yet God feeds them. Oh how much more valuable are you than the birds! .... Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown in the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!" (Luke 12:21-31).
God is committed to taking care of you in a generous and dependable way that far outshines even the International Space Station supply efforts!
Now, does this mean that your life will go exactly the way you want it to? Well, Jesus isn't talking about being comfortable in this section of the Gospel of Luke. He is actually talking about being self-sacrificial. He is talking about life consisting in much more than what you have or how good you feel at the moment. In the verses before this, Jesus had just finished reminding people about the temporary nature of this life. He directed them to deeper things: the condition of your soul in your relationship to God and the importance of being God's instrument to serve others.
Jesus' point here is about worry, about being anxious in areas over which you have no control. And, it's easy to worry, isn't it? There are so many things in this life that are out of our control. You can worry about the weather. You can worry about your future. You can worry about your kids and your grandkids. You can worry about whether you will meet the right person to marry. You can worry about your job. You can worry about the traffic jam you're in right now, or whether you'll be late to where you're going. But Jesus asked, "By worrying, will you be able to add an hour to your life? Will your worry change anything?"
One of the words for worry here means "to be anxious." It means to be tossed about by the things around you. Just read the news, much of it shakes us up, that's for sure. Or, more personally, just when you feel like you've got a handle on things, that letter arrives in the mail, that phone call comes from a family member, that doctor's appointment takes a turn for the worse. Whether it is personal concerns or all the wild happenings in this world, you can feel like you're being tossed around, out of control.
In verse 29 of Luke 12, Jesus uses, though, another word for worry. This word can mean to exalt yourself or to be arrogant. You see, when you and I worry, we're tempted to think that our life is in our control or that you and I are totally on our own. You think you're doing it all by yourself, that what matters is what is in your control alone. Listen, when your faith in yourself trumps your faith in God, your faith is misplaced and you can even be pushing away the intervention and provision of God for you.
God cares; God knows what's best for you and me. God's Word not only informs and directs it actually gives life. It's His world and He wants you to know that you are His child, His heir. He cares. And with Him as your provision, as your Lord, what's the point of worrying? Sometimes the very young can speak the truth very clearly. I heard about a 5th grade class assignment at a Christian school that challenged the students to look at TV commercials and see if they could use them in some way to communicate ideas about God.
God is like Hallmark cards ... He cares enough to send His very best. God is like Tide ... He gets the stains out that others leave behind. God is like General Electric ... He brings good things to life.
Well, God is all that and much, much more. In fact, He sent His Son to live, to die, and to rise again so that you might live in Him now and forever. Jesus is making the point, God cares, God loves you, and with Him you're never alone. Thank God, even when it comes to making the most of our lives, we're not in this all by ourselves. God has a stake in it with us, a cross firmly planted in history that says, "I care." That's why Jesus says, And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things, and your Father knows that you need them.
Dale Carnegie, the writer of the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People," wrote another book called "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living." Section five of the book is entitled: "The Perfect Way to Conquer Worry." While every other section of the book has multiple points and sub points, this section has only one key point. What's the perfect way to conquer worry according to Dale Carnegie? The answer in section five is simply this: Pray.
Now, for many, prayer is talking to God, kind of a generic type of thing. You hope God listens, you hope God cares, you pray because, well, some issues are too big for anything else. Let me be clear, praying as a Christian is way more than that, infinitely more than that! Not because of our prayers but because of God! You see, when you pray to God as a believer, you know He cares, you know who He is, you know what He says through His word. Prayer that flows from faith in Christ is a prayer offered with confidence in that fact in this life, you are not alone. When God invites you to pray, it's because He cares about you, He wants to hear from you. He can't wait to respond.
When Jesus told us not to be worried, He went on to say, "Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:31-32). The word kingdom here doesn't mean castle or a plot of land. It means God's action in your life. He cares about you! He is always in action for you. "Fear not," Jesus says. Don't be afraid. It is your Father's good pleasure to always be at work on your behalf. Just as NASA and SpaceX are intent on investing in supply ships for their astronauts; just as they will stop at nothing to make sure that their astronauts are taken care of; your Father in heaven cares deeply about you. It is His good pleasure to help and serve you. You are not on your own. You are not forgotten. You're not floating alone in outer space. God provided His care for you when He sent much more than a supply rocket. He sent His only Son to defeat the root of all worry--the curse of death--and to give you the gift of new life. In Jesus Christ, God took away all of your reasons to worry.
It's true that this broken world is still filled with pain and tragedy. People go hungry. Many are homeless. Too many are ill and abused. But we're not in this alone. God cares. He cares by giving the eternal answer. As we trust in Him and cling to His grace in Jesus Christ, we know that there will come a day when there will be no more death, mourning, or crying, or pain. There will come a day when we are fully restored. This is our certain hope in our crucified and resurrected Savior.
But, our hopes are not in the future only. God also cares by giving us answers now. He provides His living Word that breathes life into us when the struggles of each day wear us down. He blesses us with the gift of baptism, the washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit that makes us God's own children and brings the certainty of His everlasting love now. He gives us the gift of Holy Communion through which Jesus Himself makes His home in us for our strength and our forgiveness. And, you know what else? He gives the world His Church. In Christ, we, as His believers, get to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world. God is at work, even through His Church, His people, as an investment of love and hope in the world. That's why Jesus said, "Sell your possessions, give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Luke 12:33-34).
There is a difference in serving others because of how God has served you. As a follower of Jesus, you get to be God's supply ship, of His word and grace to the world. You bring the fruit of the Spirit to a world in need: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You bring what matters to our hurting and broken culture. You bring God's eternal investment to people in your life. You show God's love to the hurting. You share both material blessings and good news with people in need. You reach out with gifts that never fail. You provide treasures that will never wear out. God gives you a heart that supplies His love and care to a world that gets tossed about by worries and to people whose vision becomes clouded by trial. Instead of worrying, you bring an expansive view of new life to all people. You share the Good News of God, a God who really cares.
It's that big picture that gives us strength to love and to care for others day to day. It's that present and eternal hope that makes enduring love possible when all else fails. Jesus reminds us not to miss the big picture, because when you see that clearly, the smaller vistas in your life become clearer, too.
When Jeff Williams was on his mission at the International Space Station, he was fascinated with what he saw out the window of the orbiting spacecraft. Even though he experienced the adventure of space walks and had the opportunity to work on hundreds of experiments, the highlight of the journey for him was what the astronauts called "Earth observation." Jeff noted in his journal on a NASA website: "You can never tire of looking at the part of God's creation we call Earth." In fact, Colonel Jeff Williams took more photographs of the Earth than any astronaut in history! A sampling of them can be found in his book, The Work of His Hands, published by Concordia Publishing House in 2010.
Jeff saw the earth from a different perspective. Instead of looking at the accumulation of daily e-mails, a checkbook balance that wasn't always encouraging, traffic that became snarled, news stories of loss or violence, or the moment-to-moment struggles of life in this world, Jeff saw the bigger picture. He saw the sun rise every ninety minutes. He looked at a complete mountain range in a glance. He saw vast deserts and oceans stretched out before him. Yes, all the worries of daily life were still there, but Jeff saw a bigger picture, a beautiful picture of the world.
That's the view that God gives you today. As you agonize over illness or loneliness, the cross of Christ says, God cares. As you look at dwindling financial resources, or day-to-day struggles, the cross of Jesus Christ says, God cares! As you struggle with meaning or purpose in the daily grind, the cross of Jesus Christ says, God cares. As your heart even grieves the death of someone you love, the cross of Christ says, God cares!
For every worry, God draws you close to Him and gives you a different view today. "Be strong and courageous," God says. "Do not be frightened, do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).
That's the big picture of living in God's grace. God, who sent His Son Jesus to save you, is still working actively to help you in every way. God cares.
Trust that today, my friend. Know that God is always at work for your good, for what's best for you even when others are not. Jesus says that to you and me today, even if worry seems to be overwhelming us for the moment, even if it seems that God is not near but far. For the same Father who sent His Son for you, He says in the Scripture in Isaiah: "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.... they who wait for the LORD, they shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:28-31).
Dear friend, God cares about you, and with faith in Jesus Christ, you can bank on it! Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for August 11, 2013 Topic: What Is Evangelism And Whose Job Is It?
ANNOUNCER: And we're back once again with Pastor Gregory Seltz. I'm Mark Eischer. Today we have a listener who says he just was appointed to the evangelism committee at church. So he wants us to tell him what is evangelism and whose job is it?
SELTZ: Well, he's on the committee. Let me answer the first question first. The word evangelism is a Biblical Greek word that means "good news" or "good message." The act of evangelism is simply sharing the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
ANNOUNCER: Which sounds easy, but I would say that not everyone finds it so easy to share their faith.
SELTZ: Well, it can be a scary thing, Mark, especially because evangelism has, at times, had the reputation of something like making cold calls in sales. But sharing your faith is not a sales job. Remember what Peter and John said when they were commanded to stop sharing the Good News of Jesus. They said, "We cannot help but speak about what we have seen and what we have heard" (Acts 4:20 NIV).
ANNOUNCER: Because sharing your faith is something you want to do and it's something you get to do. It's something you can be excited about.
SELTZ: That's right; it's similar to sharing any good news in your life. Not to be trite or crass here, but if you find a great plumber, you tell your friends that you found a great plumber. If you enjoyed a movie, you share that with people. You're excited to share good things in life with others. And, remember, the word evangelism is about good news, the best news of all. In fact, in modern terms, God's good news went viral at a time when there was no technology, no phones, computers, printers, internet, or TV. In fact, it went "word of mouth" viral enough to reach us.
ANNOUNCER: You mentioned Peter and John, Jesus' handpicked disciples. Is evangelism only the job of pastors?
SELTZ: That might be what our questioner wants to know. So let me just say this, Mark, the whole church is the evangelism committee! Think of what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians chapter 1: "For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we, Paul is saying, we need not say anything" (1 Thessalonians 1:8). So, it wasn't just a pastor or merely a committee that was spreading the Word about Jesus. Every believer "sounded forth" the Good News.
ANNOUNCER: And Peter wrote, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15 NIV).
SELTZ: Yeah, I remember being called to Immanuel Lutheran as the Evangelism Pastor and telling my people, "Isn't it great, we all get to be His witnesses, and some of us get to be His evangelists." But if Jesus is our Savior, how can you not tell people about the great hope you have in Him?
ANNOUNCER: Okay, how do we go about doing that? Where do you start?
SELTZ: This is where it's so important to remember that the Gospel spreads, in large part, through relationships. And the first relationships people experience are in family.
ANNOUNCER: I think we sometimes forget that in sharing the Good News of Jesus, it doesn't require us to travel away to a far off country. It begins with us at home.
SELTZ: Right. Home is our first mission field. Just think if everyone shared with their family members the message of Jesus Christ crucified and risen, our refuge and strength, the source of our new way of life. Now listen, I'm not talking about having Bible lectures. I'm talking about word and deed: telling of Jesus' love, showing His love, living a life of prayer, and finding refuge in God's Word together. So, family is a great place to begin, Mark.
ANNOUNCER: I know we have many family members who do just that; they're praying for their other family members who don't yet know Jesus.
SELTZ: And, prayer is the foundation of evangelism. Prayer focuses us on God's Word and another's need, so pray and watch to see what relationships and conversations God develops for us.
ANNOUNCER: Any other advice about evangelism?
SELTZ: Beyond family members, it's important to look for opportunities in all of your relationships. Again, not so much opportunities to preach, but opportunities to care, to listen, to offer prayer, to share the reason for the hope you have--to share the blessing of Jesus with people in need. It's also helpful to have a Bible verse that is special to you; have it handy. God's Word is living and active and you can pass along that precious gift. In fact, God wants you to pass along His precious gift.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you Pastor Seltz. And it's our hope and prayer for this broadcast, also that we are sharing Good News that you can share with others. And we invite you to check out Mission U here at lhm.org for even more helpful ways to share your faith. Thanks for listening. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"If You But Trust in God to Guide You" arr. Henry Gerike. Used by permission.
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