(Preached on Mother’s Day 2008: May 11th)
(Slide 1) Last Sunday during the bridal shower that was held here after worship, I thought that it would be a very helpful thing to have several married men take the groom-to-be out to lunch and share with him some important advice we had learned from our marital experiences.
So we did… four married men and the eight children to which they belonged and this groom-to-be. We went to McDonald’s and surrounded the groom-to-be with our eight children, ages of almost 5 to 15. 4 boys and 4 girls.
Now between the four of us we have been married a total of approximately 62 years. That is average of 15.5 years. Because of such longevity, we felt that we had the right and the duty to share with him some important things about marriage life with the expressed hope of helping him early in life… not to experience the ‘dog house’ situation that many young married men seem to frequently experience.
And being men, we distilled it into some very brief and succinct points. Here they are: (Slide 1a)
‘I’m sorry dear…’
‘I should have known (dear)…’
Today is Mother’s Day and it is an important day. Over the eight years I have been here, I have spoken of the history of Mother’s Day, done a couple of ‘Top Ten’ Mother’s Day lists, and told some good Mother’s Day stories. But this morning, I am sharing a brief video clip, worth the money paid for it, that really says it all about Motherhood and being a wife. To set the stage for this clip, all that I am saying is, let’s visit Rob and Laura Petrie as Rob finishes fixing the toaster:
(Slide 2) Sermon spice video clip, ‘She’s Right!’
Today is the sixth sermon of a seven part series, ‘Stepping Stones and Stumbling Blocks to Faith.’ It is also Mother’s Day and… Pentecost Sunday, the day that we remember the coming of the Holy Spirit as recorded in the opening chapters of the New Testament book of Acts. Today, we are focusing on the first two elements and next week I will conclude this series and remind us of the purpose and place of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Our main text for this morning is Galatians 6:9, ‘So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.’
Being a mother is a very important and challenging role. It is exciting and joyful. There is great reward in watching your children grow up and succeed in different ways.
Being a mother is also, at times, a difficult and even, painful role. There are moments of anxiety and even grief when decisions made by our kids bother us.
This is why our main text for this morning is so important. No matter what the outcomes of our children’s own choices are, we must not ‘get tired of doing what is good.’ We need to be diligent; we need to persevere because there comes a time when a ‘harvest of blessing’ comes our way.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks in life is discouragement especially when it comes to parenting. It sometimes seems that discouragement is always lurking around the corner ready and able to trip us up because the pressures and forces against us as parents are powerful and overwhelming at times.
But we must not give up, we must not get discouraged and quit! Why? Because God is just around the corner as well and He is also beside us and in front of us and behind us as we encounter the often overwhelming challenges of both parenthood and adulthood.
In my study and reading for this series I have read some very helpful things regarding the stumbling blocks and stepping stones to faith that have been shared. They have given me both food for thought as I prepare each week and also for my own personal reflection and review.
One of the most insightful and important things that I read is in regard to this stumbling block that discouragement is tied to – sloth. Now sloth is a word that we don’t often here these days. The word that we often hear these days instead of sloth is ‘lazy.’
But I suggest this morning that there is another word that goes deeper to the heart of this stumbling block than ‘lazy.’ One writer, Donald Capps, uses the word, ‘apathy’ instead of sloth or laziness.
Think with me for a moment about this. (Slide 4)
When get discouraged…
we often give up…
We come to the place where our efforts seem futile and unproductive. No matter how hard we try, we encounter barriers that really make things difficult if not impossible. So we give up.
When we give up…
we often become lazy…
We simply quit trying and do nothing for nothing seems to work these days. What’s the use of continuing to try if nothing I do works?
When we become lazy…
we often ‘don’t care’ anymore
The ‘don’t care’ part is apathy. We have no motivation to get involved and care. We have no desire to get up and do something. We simply quit being involved. We detach, emotionally, behaviorally, and spiritually from God, family, friends, responsibilities, and even ourselves.
Capps ties the word ‘apathy’ to the ancient word acedia. As he discusses what apathy means as to our lives and faith he uses words like ‘indifference,’ ‘disregard,’ ‘lack of interest,’ and ‘stagnant.’ In fact he says that those who do battle with apathy are in danger of being ‘self-absorbed, imprisoned in their own narrow self-indulgence and suffering from boredom and interpersonal impoverishment.’ He calls apathy ‘a spiritual crisis, and the only solution to the crisis is a spiritual renewal through which the spirit of God moves within us and moves us to care again.’
Now men, we are not exempt from this dangerous thing called apathy. We too, are subject to the same challenges of life that our wives are and that tempt us to give up and withdraw.
The stepping stone we need to walk on is ‘diligence.’ (Slide 5) Diligence is another word that we often do not hear these days. It is an older word that perhaps is best understood today as persevere.
Perseverance is spoken of in scripture. One well-known verse that implies perseverance is 2 Timothy 4:7.
(Slide 6) ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.’
Another helpful passage is Hebrews 10:23. (Slide 6a) ‘Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. ‘
(Slide 7) Then there is 2 Peter 1:5-8. ‘A life of moral excellence leads to knowing God better. Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness.
(Slide 8) Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Notice the important bridge that patient endurance makes between living a life of moral excellence and self-control and becoming a godly (or Christ-like) person who is productive and useful. Patient endurance helps to bridge the gap between these two vital and important sets of qualities and characteristics. The result is that we are able to develop perseverance. But without patient endurance, we fail.
(Slide 9) Patient endurance, remaining faithful, and without wavering… these are very good descriptions of the important stepping stone and building block of diligence or perseverance.
So, how do we stand on this stepping stone? How do we build this foundation block into our lives? How do we begin to avoid the stumbling block of apathy?
(Slide 10) One of the first things we have to do is to identify what or who is our source of hope.
What are people’s sources of hope these days? I can think of several: work, family, marriage, love, power, sports, school, and country.
We need them in our lives. They are valuable and important. But how sturdy are they? Do they keep our hopes up? Do they prove faithful day in and day out? They are important sources of hope in relationships and belonging to a group of people or a goal or a cause larger than ourselves, but they cannot provide the surest source of hope we all need – God.
(Slide 11) In Psalm 25:2 we read, ‘Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.’
We also just read from Hebrews 10:23, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise ‘ We need embrace the Lord as our primary, and in some ways, only source of hope.
(Slide 12) We also need to narrow our commitments if we are to have hope.
Now, you might be saying, ‘Jim how can we hope to persevere by narrowing our commitments?’ A good question! I’m glad you asked!
Too many commitments can stress us out. We can be going in too many directions at once and find ourselves emotionally and spiritual spent.
Granted there are times when we are very busy and involved because life and work require it. However, too much ‘pedal to the medal’ is not good for us. It can cause us to become stressed due to the overwhelming number of commitments and duties we have to do.
As a result we sometimes find ourselves falling behind. Our work may suffer. Our relationships may suffer. Our faith may suffer. Our perseverance may suffer as well.
Mom’s, what might you need to say ‘no’ to, to help you persevere and stand firm? (Dad’s I ask you the same question as well!)
May I respectfully suggest this morning that some of us are doing too much? Some of us need to clean out our calendars, and those of our families as well. We’re doing too much and we are moving toward not just burnout but apathy because we are subject to an exhaustion that will disable our hope and our willingness to care. We cannot afford to get to that place.
(Slide 13) We must also say ‘yes’ to God. Let’s for a moment reflect on the scripture passages we have heard read this morning. I say with strong certainty that each passage strongly implies a yes to God and no to attitudes and commitments that cause us to stumble.
Saying ‘yes’ to the Lord, again and again and again and again, means that we seek to persevere and ask His help in doing so. It means that we take the long view and the faith view that recognizes that with moments of frustration and disappointment, even heartache, there are also moments of joy and hope and progress because we love and serve a God who is faithful and is present with us throughout all of life.
Saying ‘yes’ to God also means that we invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives and allow Him to change us and improve us so that have the inner strength and willingness to persevere.
So mom, don’t give up… on yourselves. Don’t give up on your kids and don’t give up on the Lord.
Let God be your truest and best source of hope. Narrow your commitments to the right ones for the stage of life that you are in at this place in life. Say ‘yes’ to God daily and again and again. Let the Holy Spirit fill you and empower you to do what you cannot do in your own strength.
Mom, ‘don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.’
I close again with the excerpt from Max Lucado’s book “When God Whispers Your Name” as I believe that it really illustrates what happens when we stand on the stepping stone of perseverance.
“For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands. It is now that I must make a choice because of Calvary, I’m free to choose. And so I choose.
I choose love. No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness. I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.
I choose joy. I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance. I will refuse the temptation to be cynical, the tool of the lazy thinker. I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God. I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.
I choose peace. I will live forgiven. I will forgive so that I may live.
I choose patience. I will overlook the inconveniences of the world. Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite him to do so. Rather than complaining that the wait is too long, I will thank God for a moment to pray. Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments, I will face them with joy and courage.
I choose kindness. I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.
I choose goodness. I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one. I will be overlooked before I will boast. I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.
I choose faithfulness. Today I will keep my promises. My debtors will not regret their trust. My associates will not question my word. My wife will not question my love. And my children will never fear that their father [and mother] will not come home.
I choose gentleness. Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, make a demand, may it be only of myself.
I choose self-control. I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar. I refuse to let what will not rule the eternal. I choose self-control.
I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith. I will be influenced only by God. I will be taught only by Christ.
I choose love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To these I commit my day. If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace. And then when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.”
As we conclude this morning, I am going to ask all of the mothers here to come forward so that we can pray for you…
Sources: Donald Capps, Deadly Sins and Saving Virtues. Pages 62 and 63. ©1987
Lucado’s quote found at sermoncentral.com