Committed to the Cause
2 Samuel 23:14 - 17
What do you think of when I say the names Michael Jai White, Dwayne Johnson, or Tony Jaa? 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. So many of us little boys would spend our days running around the neighborhood and through the woods playing out the scenes that we saw these men act out on TV and in the movies. But we knew that we were playing, just like those tough guys were doing on screen. It was all an act.
One of the things I enjoyed doing with the boys, and lately with the youth group is to share 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 Krispy Kreme and trying to make it out of the parking lot without eating one. I mean it may be difficult, it is not impossible.
The passage before our text this morning might look a little dull at first glance. After all it’s just a list of guys with names that are a bit difficult to pronounce and a small glimpse of their activities. But as we close out our series on Trusting God there are three of these men, who are mentioned in the text that was read for us this morning, we need to consider. (Read 2 Samuel 23:8-12)
These are the three warriors in Samuel’s odd little story. King David was hiding in a cave when he mentions in passing; 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 go back to our childhood when things were much easier. 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 memory 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. But the King spoke 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; He pours 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 to bring her 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.
On the surface our text this morning is about three men who sacrificed their lives in an incredible act of heroism. But we don’t need to just look at the text, as much as we need to consider the motivation behind the text. What would make those three men take such a huge risk just to get David a drink of water. David believed that these three mighty men had sacrificed for something other than themselves. But why were they willing to take such a risk, to put their very lives on the line to give David such a precious gift?
Were they Skilled? Obviously they were skilled warriors. But talk to any hero and they will tell you that some kind of automatic pilot just kicks in. They no more thought about what they were doing than we think about breathing.
Was it Courage? That goes without saying. But most heroes will tell you they were scared to death and still moved forward in the face of their fear.
Sacrifice? The sacrifices heroes have to make cannot be counted and often times those standing on the outside will never truly know how much was sacrificed in the life of the hero.
There must be something greater, something in the heart of a hero that causes them to sacrifice; some priority, some preexisting condition. Let me suggest another quality that I think explains why our three mighty men 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 without commitment. Commitment gives courage a cause to fight for, a reason to move forward when everyone else is retreating. Without a cause, courage is nothing more than an explosion of power and bravado. Without a cause, courage is dangerous.
Sacrifice is the child of commitment. Where there is no commitment, there is no sacrifice. Sacrifice is born of commitment. These three men 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 trusting in God I wanted 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 doing our best to Model Love in the Model City, but if we want that to be more than just a catchy slogan, we need to be honest about our level of commitment. 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 you have the heart?
In order to answer that question, I want to ask you three guide questions. We will not be offering an invitation this morning, because these questions can invoke a gut, knee jerk response. Often knee jerk responses don’t last or provide the type of growth that God is looking for. So, instead I hope you will jot these questions down and spend some time this week really thinking about and actually praying about your answers. Be honest with yourself and with God as you explore the level of your commitment.
Is meeting together with the church family a priority or is it just another item on your calendar?
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 spend time with other Christians for Bible study, worship, game nights, or times of fellowship, then there is a commitment problem. And it does not just affect you because you are teaching your children and grandchildren more about what you believe through what you do than through what you say.
Carl Trueman says, “The church is losing its young people because the parents never taught their children that it was important. I think that applies across the board. It applies to family worship, and it also applies to whether you are in church every Sunday and what priority you demonstrate to your children church has on a Sunday.”
One of the predominate reasons that our children don’t have a love for Christ is due to the fact that we as parents don’t have a real love or passion for Christ. Not because we don’t say all the right words but because of how we prioritize our time and commitment on Sundays and during the week. When television, sports, school, hobbies even our family itself becomes elevated to a place of idolatry what we are actually saying is that Christ is secondary to all these things. When you refuse to tithe your time, what you are teaching your children and grandchildren is that it is not necessary to take up your cross and die to yourself daily in order to follow Christ. We are teaching them that you only have to live for Christ when it’s convenient. After all, it is okay to sacrifice time with your all-satisfying Savior if something more fun or more important comes along.
It was never in my 50 year plan to become a preacher, but it was a part of my upbringing. When I was a child, church was not optional. My parents lived out their commitment to the local bodies we were blessed to be a part of. They did whatever needed to be done in those little churches. My dad lead singing, prayers, and even preached when needed, my parents taught Bible classes, they had us out there mowing the yard and building garbage bins, our family did it all. I grew up in a family that was willing to pour their time, talents, and money into keeping those small congregations alive, doing everything they could do to help them grow and protecting them. We did not just attend church; we were the church. And when I look back on my life, it was those activities and hours we spent with those church families that made all the difference in my life.
I have said over and over the past three weeks, tithing your time is an important aspect of your relationship with Christ and His church. 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 or two hours a week believing that is enough time with God is a great indicator of a lack of commitment.
Maybe it’s time you started tithing your time.
Are you a guest or a host?
The difference between a guest and a host, is that guests are served and hosts are the servants. Now if you are visiting today, you are our guests. We want to serve you in any way we can. But if you want to call Greenbrier your church home then you must 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 getting thing ready for events and activities, or attended the Friday Common Meal? When was the last time you poured into the life of someone who was younger than you? Helping them navigate the pitfalls of life? We need folks who are willing to show up 20 minutes early and greet the folks who come to our services. We need folks who are willing to come early and walk around the building with our security team. We need folks who make our visitors feel like guests and help them find their way. People who will help keep us safe.
Do you ever help out with youth activities, while the elders have asked me to do the lion’s share of the work I would love some help. Someone to help teach or host events so we can let our young people know that they are a valuable asset to this church.
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 water faucets, 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 Greenbrier.
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. If you are resting on service you did 30 years ago, you need to know that the expiration on that service ran out 29 ½ years ago.
The second reasons I hear for not serving is that I will serve later when I have more time. If you are waiting for the right time to start serving 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 they are 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. Greenbrier 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?
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.
I have a friend who told me the story of one Sunday when she was trying to teach her daughter a lesson. She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for church and told her to, Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself. When they were leaving church, my friend asked her daughter which amount she had given. He daughter replied, Well, 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.
My friend 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.
It is easy to say that you can't judge a person's commitment on such little things as church attendance, being involved in activities, or giving. But I believe our text this morning about Josheb, Eliazar and Shammah would argue that noting you do for God that comes from a committed heart is ever to small. 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.