Committed to the Cause

2 Samuel 23:8 - 17

What do you think of when I say the names Jason Statham, Jet Li, or Steve Austin? For those of us a little older Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Bruce Willis.  Or for those older still John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Marlin Brando, and Chuck Connors.

These names bring to mind some of history’s greatest tough guys. On screen they defended countries, defeated enemies, and utterly destroyed their opponents. There were many days as a young boy I would run off into the woods playing out the scenes that I saw on TV and in the movies. But I knew that I was playing, just like those tough guys were doing on screen. It was all an act.

One of the things I enjoy doing with the boys is sharing some of the great stories from the Bible. Real accounts of things that make what those guys did on a movie screen look about as daring as buying a dozen doughnuts from Happy Donuts and trying to make it out of the parking lot without eating one. I mean it may be difficult, it is not impossible.

Go back to our text this morning; 2 Samuel 23. At first glance this text might look a little dull; after all it’s just a list of the names and a few of the exploits of King David's personal body guard. This morning I want us to focus on three men from the list; Josheb-Basshebeth, whom I will simply call Josheb, Eleazar and Shammah. Verses 8-12 tell us something about their talent and courage as warriors.

Josheb was apparently quite skilled with the spear. Vs. 8 says he raised his spear and killed 800 men in one engagement. The first of David’s mighty men who personally killed 800 men with a spear during a single engagement. He was a fierce soldier and an able leader.

Eleazar was a swordsman. In one particular battle when Israel retreated, Eleazar stood his ground. He fought so long and hard that his grip became locked around the handle of his sword. That says something about his stamina, strength and drive.

Then there was Shammah. When the Philistines attacked, Shammah took his stand in the middle of a bean field while everyone else retreated. God was with him and he turned back the attack; killing many of the enemy. His fellow warriors only returned to take the spoils of the dead.

Samuel tells us about these three warriors and then in an effort to describe their greatness, courage, and valor he retells an odd little story. King David was hiding in a cave while he was fighting the Philistines and one day He pondered out loud, "You know what would be great right about now. Some of that wonderful water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem."

We can all understand that. Bethlehem was David's home town. Here he was in the heat and pressure of battle and he remembers how it was when he was a kid. He remembered how cool and refreshing the water from his hometown well was.

We have all had moments when things were stressful, or things were at a standstill when we reflected on how wonderful it would be if we could just, and then our minds fill in the blank. Usually when we have those moments of remembrance, they are just that, a reflection on a great memory, not a real desire to go back and relive that experience.

I am sure that the same was true for David.  I don’t believe for one minute that his musing was a command. It was reflection back to when things were easer. David didn't expect anyone to actually do anything about it. Bethlehem was held by the strongest part of the Philistine army.

He verbalized a memory and that was all these three mighty warriors needed to hear. They took up their weapons and headed down to Bethlehem. They broke through the lines and as two of them held off the counter attack; the third drew a bucket of water from the well.

Can you to imagine what must have been going through the minds of the Philistines? Here are three of Israel's fiercest warriors, they crash through your defensive position and proceed on to the wall of the city. You think they are there to assassinate your general. But they never make it to the gate. Instead, they stop at the well, draw some water for their canteens and then turn around and retreat, slaying Philistines left and right, being careful not to spill the water.

Now to me this is the interesting part. When the three warriors return to camp they immediately go to David and present the gift that they risked their lives for and David does the unthinkable by pouring it out on the ground. Now I don't know about you, but if I am sitting in the living room and Trista asks me for a glass of tea I expect her to drink it. If I have to risk my life to indulge a whim of my king, you had better bet I would expect him to drink every drop. And I wouldn’t be disappointed if he licked the bucket.  

But listen to what David says. "Far be it from me, O Lord, to do this! Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?" And David would not drink it. That was David's way of saying, "Only God is fit to receive such a costly offering.” I have wondered what would make those heroes take such a risk just to get David a drink of water.

One of the great treasures that we don’t often take advantage of is sitting down with our veterans and listening to their war stories. We need to sit down and look into the face of men and women as they recount the failures and successes they endured as they fought for our freedom. Listening to them gives you goose bumps as you hear about how people rise to the moment. It has always amazed me what people will do in the moment of crisis. In most situations most people don't know to what heights they can reach. And they probably don't think they're reaching to those heights even as they do it. But what is it, what does it take to reach those heights of heroism?

Courage? That goes without saying. But most heroes will tell you they were scared to death even as they performed their feats.

Skill? Obviously. But again, heroes tell you that some kind of automatic pilot just kicked in. They no more thought about what they were doing than we think about breathing.

Sacrifice? The sacrifices heroes have to make cannot be counted.

But there has to be something in the heart of a hero that causes him or her to sacrifice; some priority, some preexisting condition. Let me suggest another quality that I think explains why Josheb, Eleazar and Shammah risked their lives for the whim of their king.

Commitment. Or you can call it heart if you want to. They were totally committed to David. Without commitment, nothing matters because nothing happens.

You can have all the skill in the world, but skill without commitment is unfocussed. Commitment gives skill direction. How many athletes have the fundamentals, ability and raw talent to make in the big leagues? Thousands. How many have the commitment to give up nights and weekends to practice, to work and to sacrifice to master those skills and pay their dues and earn a spot on the roster? Only hundreds.

Skill and knowledge without commitment is directionless and dead. Courage isn't much use either without commitment. Commitment gives courage a cause. Without a cause, courage is nothing more than an explosion of power and bravado. Without a cause, courage is dangerous.

And sacrifice? Sacrifice is the child of commitment. Where there is no commitment, there is no sacrifice. John Hus, the great reformer, believed that the scriptures were the infallible and supreme authority in all matters. He died at the stake for that belief in Constance, Germany, on his forty-second birthday. As he refused a final plea to renounce his faith, Hus' last words were, "What I taught with my lips, I seal with my blood." Sacrifice is born of commitment.

Josheb, Eleazar and Shammah were certainly skilled warriors. They lacked no degree of courage. They were willing to sacrifice. But their skill, courage and sacrifice were born of their commitment to David and to Israel and to God.

Today as we end our series on giving we need to spend a little time talking about your commitment to the people of this community, this church, and most of all to God. We are in a new era as a church. We are facing new challenges and new opportunities which require renewed commitments. And we're not just responding to the whims of our King. We're under orders to take this community for His Name. Today we need to know if you have the commitment, the devotion, and the heart to do it. I know you have the courage. I know you have the skills, the gifts. The question is, do we have the heart?

Today we will end by asking three questions that I hope you will write down and go home and really think about.  Be honest with yourself and with God as you explore the level of your commitment.

Are you consistently present or usually missing?

Now I know attendance isn't the most accurate measure of our commitment. There are people who are here every time the doors are opened who are no more committed than people who never show up. But while presence doesn't equal commitment your absence guarantees a lack of it.

We wouldn’t call an athlete who rarely shows up for practice and skips a game every now and then committed. In the same way, if you would rather stay at the house than come and be with the Lord’s Children for Bible study, worship, game nights, fellowship or any other thing, then there is a commitment problem.

I have said over and over the past three weeks, tithing your time is an important aspect of your Christianity. God knows that the only way we will be able to make it through this life with our souls intact is if we have help. Showing up one hour a week, or just three hours a week and not spending any more time with God is a great indicator of a lack of commitment. There are no Lone Rangers in the family of God.

Maybe it’s time you started tithing your time.

Are you a guest or a host?

You know the difference between guests and hosts, guests are served and hosts are the servants. Now if you are visiting today, you are our guests. We long to serve you in any way we can. But if you call Park Central your church home you must know that we expect you to become a host, a servant.

There are many of us here today that need to move from guest to host. When was the last time you taught a Sunday school class or helped in one? When was the last time you helped with angel food, or grief share, or divorce recovery?  We need folks to show up 25 minutes early and serve as greeters. Folks who make our visitors feel like guests and find their way. I’m still new enough that I give our own members visitors packets. That’s awkward for them and me.   

Do you ever help out with youth activities or just drop your kids off and expect Brian to take care of them? He has a wife and a child on the way. He does the lion’s share of the work but he needs some help. Someone to help him teach or host events so we can let our young people know that they are a valuable asset to this church. If you have ever been a child then you can offer a helping hand.

What about helping out around the building, by helping change light bulbs, picking up trash off your pew, cleaning up after yourself, turning off lights or coffee pots

Do you help in the worship?  Could you lead a prayer, or a song, or serve at the table? Can you press a button and forward the slides while we are singing? There are dozens of ways to become a host at Park Central.

Typically I hear one of two reasons for not serving. Some people will say "I did my time already, it's someone else's turn." Or, "I'll serve later, it's just not time for me yet." If you are resting on 30 year old service you need to know that the expiration date ran out 29 ½ years ago. If you are waiting for the right time, you need to know it will never come.

I've known people who said, "We'll serve when we have kids." They had kids and said, "We'll serve when their older." The kids grew up and they said, "We'll serve when they graduate." Kids graduated and they said, "We'll serve when we retire." They retired and said, "We're too old to serve." Park Central doesn't need guests. We need hosts. Are you serving or sitting around waiting to be served?

Maybe it’s time that you began tithing your talents.

Are you a giver or a keeper?

Lastly, I'm referring to your giving habits. Jesus once said that where your treasure is there your heart will be also. In other words, what you do with your money is a sure sign of where your commitments lie. If you are committed to God then you will give regularly and generously. I believe that He expects us to show our trust in Him by stepping out on faith. God expects us to take a high risk.

A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson. She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for church. “Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself,” she told the girl. When they were leaving church, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given. “Well,” said the little girl, “I was going to give the dollar, but just before the collection the man in the pulpit said that we should all be cheerful givers. I knew I’d be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter… so I did.”

The mother may not have agreed with her daughter’s reasoning, but the fact is the daughter gave in the way she believed. And that’s true of all of us, we give as we believe.   You see God wants us to trust Him enough to tithe our treasure.

Someone once told me, "You can't judge a person's commitment on such little things as church attendance, cleaning up around yourself or giving." But I want to remind you of Josheb, Eliazar and Shammah. All they did was get David a drink of water. And David considered it an offering to God. Nothing, not time, not talent, not treasure is a little thing when it is offered to God.


Questions to Consider

Read Matthew 4:19; 9:9; Mark 2:14; and John 1:43. What consistent invitation did Jesus make?

What did the disciples have to “leave” in order to follow Jesus?

How committed were the apostles to the cause?

Have you been called to the same thing or something else?

Why do we settle for or even expect less?

From where should all of our commitments flow?

How would you describe your commitment to:

    VISA and MasterCard:

    Your hobbies:

    Your employer:

    Park Central:

    Your family:


This morning I asked you to consider 3 questions:

Are you consistently present or usually missing?

Are you a guest or a host?

Are you a giver or a keeper?

 What will you do to strengthen your commitment to God?

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