10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:10 NIV)
During the past two weeks there has been a spotlight shining continuously on the Oklahoma City area. The spotlight has been shining brightly not because the Thunder won the NBA Championship or because the Sooners or Cowboys won the National Championship, but because of heartbreaking tragedy. Unimaginable damage has been done to thousands of homes and businesses, 24 lives have been lost, and every major news network has traveled to our area to tell the story. All of those who have come to visit us have recognized the outpouring of love and selfless sacrifice of those who have seen a need and simply wanted to help. People have given money, time, their material possessions, and even opened their homes to folks who had no place to go. I’m not just talking about people from the surrounding area either. I got a phone call from a friend of mine from Plano, Texas last week who works for Krispy Krunchy Chicken. She said, “My boss wants to come to Moore and cook 36,000 meals for the people who are in need.” I said, “We’ll help.” Some of us from the church went to First Christian Church in Moore and jumped in alongside their folks on Wednesday and Thursday. After packing chicken and biscuits in grocery sacks I jumped in Harriet Weirich’s Suburban with Harriet and Alyson Geister and we headed out to the neighborhoods. The first place we went there were some folks working so Alyson grabbed a bag and headed one direction while I grabbed a bag and headed another direction. I saw a family, a man, woman, and a couple of teenage girls, working out in a front yard so I asked, “Are you hungry?” She looked at her husband and said, “I told you somebody would come by.” We started talking as I handed them their lunch and then I asked, “Is this your home?” The man said, “No, we’re from Hopkinsville, Kentucky.” I said, “Really? How did you get out here?” The woman said, “We were watching TV Friday night. We saw all of the damage and the Lord told us to go help. We left Saturday morning and have been here since.” And people from all across the country have heard that same voice of the Lord saying, “Go!” and they’ve come to help.
“Go!” There’s no greater source of motivation or inspiration for any follower of Jesus than to hear the Lord speak those words to us is there? The greatest motivational speaker in the history of the world can stir our hearts and possibly produce momentary change in us, but when God says, “Go!” something altogether different takes place. Stop and think about it. The Lord spoke to Abram, a seventy-five year old man, and said, “Go!” Look at Genesis 12:1 with me.
1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1 NIV)
And Abram got up and went. He had no map. He had no plan. What he did have was the call from God to “Go!” In the New Testament, at the end of Jesus’ time on the earth, after He had risen from the grave, Jesus gathered with His followers and gave them their instructions. Read Matthew 28:19-20 with me.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)
They weren’t community organizers. They weren’t evangelists. They weren’t church planters. They hadn’t taken an evangelism class. They didn’t have a plan. What they did have was the word of the Lord telling them to “Go!” They were just plain ‘ol ordinary folks who had a love for their Lord that compelled them to do what He said…and He said, “Go!”
As I said earlier, many have heard that voice that my friends from Kentucky heard last Friday night and because of their love for the Lord they got up and have come alongside of us. Just last Sunday we had a group of folks from Nashville, Tennessee worshiping with us in the early service. They were leaving worship to go to work. Folks are working side-by-side. Who are they? They are folks who’ve lost everything, folks from the towns around those hit by the tornadoes, and folks from distant states. People have come for various reasons, but make no mistake about it, many have come because they’ve heard the voice of the Lord say, “Go!”
It is a beautiful thing to see the Body of Christ rush to the aid of the hurting. I’ve been thinking about this during the past two weeks as I’ve watched so many of you help in various ways with the needs of those that you know who have been devastated by the tornadoes. I’ve seen the Body of Christ at its best during the past two weeks.
The Church receives a lot of criticism by folks in our society for various reasons. Some of the criticism that we receive is well deserved. Far too often we are self-righteous and simply look down our noses at others whose lives have spun out of control. Far too often we are critical of the ills of society, but we aren’t willing to do anything to help bring about change. It is too easy for us to forget not only “what” God has done in saving us, but also “why” God has saved us. This shouldn’t be. Far too often we see the Body of Christ and the local church as more of a social club than anything else. The church provides for us an opportunity to be around other “good” people who are like us. The church provides for us a place where our kids can have fun and be excited about going to church. This shouldn’t be. Far too often we allow politics to infect the Body of Christ and we become impotent and irrelevant. This shouldn’t be. Not too long ago I was talking to a friend of mine who has gotten involved at Britton Christian Church and she said, “I just don’t see the politics present here that I’ve seen in other churches I’ve attended.” I said, “That’s because we keep folks busy serving. When you are busy serving the Lord, helping His people, it’s more difficult to be distracted by stuff that really doesn’t matter.” These are just some of the reasons why the Church, the Body of Christ, has gotten so much criticism by society. These are some of the ungodly things that we allow to creep in and undermine God’s call to us as a Body of believers.
When the Body of Christ is functioning as God intends for us to function we are much like the white blood cells in our own bodies. God created everything in your body and mine to serve a purpose. When Paul was talking about the “parts” of the Body of Christ, in 1 Corinthians 12, the different functions of each part, each person, he used the human body as an illustration. Paul pointed out the function of the hand, eye, ears, and nose are uniquely gifted to help the overall function of our bodies. Paul never mentioned the white blood cells, but I want to mention them this morning because I believe that one of the important functions of the Body of Christ is to serve much like the way the white blood cells serve our bodies.
Our blood system is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, of which there are five different types, platelets, and plasma. The ratio of white blood cells to red blood cells is only about 1 to 600-700. White blood cells are a small minority, but their purpose for the health of our bodies is incomparable. White blood cells are God’s defense mechanism against viruses, bacteria, or other foreign invaders that threaten our health. When our bodies are in distress and a particular area is under attack, white blood cells get the call, they rush in to help.
Isn’t that what we’ve been witnessing for the past two weeks? Our area has been in distress, our neighbors are suffering, and so the Body of Christ, the white blood cells of society if you will, have received the call to help. The Body of Christ will continue to work alongside of our neighbors who are hurting in Moore, Carney, and Shawnee, but there have been other “tornadoes” that have struck in every neighborhood of our city this past week where the Body of Christ is also needed.
I can still remember back in 1995 when the Murrah Building was bombed. It brought the national spotlight to Oklahoma much like the recent tornadoes. There was also an amazing outpouring of folks who wanted to help. The morning of the bombing someone on TV said, “If you are a pastor and you can come down here, we need you.” I was home working on my sermon at the time. I got in my truck and drove downtown. I spent the next two weeks downtown. The first week I was at the bombing site praying with and listening to workers and volunteers. The second week they asked me if I would be one of the Clergy Coordinators at the site where the families who had lost a loved one, or were waiting to hear news of their loved one, were staying.
While I was working downtown I saw a friend of mine, a businessman, volunteering in one of the triage tents. He was doing whatever they needed him to do and his eyes were wide open with enthusiasm about what he was doing. I’d never seen that kind of passion in him in the time that I’d been around him. I made a note that when everything died down I was going to take him to lunch.
The time came when we went to lunch. I told him how awesome I thought it was that he was so willing to give of his time to help those in need and how I saw a real passion in him while he was helping others. He told me story after story. After he finished I said, “Hopefully we will only experience something like this once in our lifetime, but I’ve got to tell you, there’s a bomb that goes off in our neighborhood every week.” He asked me what I meant. I told him about the daily problems people run up against and then I said, “We need help.” And more than 15 years later we still need help don’t we?
I’ve thought about that conversation during the past two weeks and I have to tell you that it’s the same scenario all over again. Tragedy has come and the masses have responded. Hopefully it will be awhile before another tragedy like this visits our state, but don’t kid yourself, “tornadoes” tear up homes, hearts, and lives each and every day.
There’s an elderly man who has lost his wife and feels so alone. There’s a mother with three kids who is addicted and dying. There’s a bright young boy who has got caught up with the wrong crowd and has dropped out of school. There’s a young woman who has just been told she has cancer. There’s a dad who has just lost his job and received a notice that his electricity is being cut off. There’s a family grieving the suicide of their teenager. There’s a boy who has been raised in church, but his dad recently died and now he’s wondering if God exists at all. And the list of heartache goes on and on and on.
The question of how God responds to situations like these is really not a question at all if you read His Word. His Word tells us,
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18 NIV)
Time and time again in God’s Word we read where He comes to the aid of His people who are in distress. He is compassionate and the comfort He provides is a comfort unlike any comfort that the world has to offer. God’s response is certain, but what is uncertain is how we will respond.
When the Lord makes us aware of someone’s need, someone’s hurt, someone’s trial—how do we respond? Do we hear the voice saying, “Go!” but convince ourselves that we are too busy to go right now? Do we hear the voice saying, “Go!” but our lack of knowledge of God’s Word and training keep us from responding? Do we hear the voice saying, “Go!” but to tell the truth we just don’t want to get involved?
I’ve learned something through the years that I think might be helpful to all of us. Our willingness to come to the aid of others is directly tied to our awareness of how the Lord has come to our aid. Our willingness to sacrifice our time, material possessions, and money will be in direct correlation to how aware we are of God’s provision for us. Not only is this a truth that I have learned from experience, but more importantly, it’s a biblical truth. Jesus said,
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (John 13:34 NIV)
Jesus didn’t simply tell us to “love one another.” He said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” There is a direct correlation between the love we demonstrate in serving others and our awareness of the love we have received from the Lord. Each of us has received an abundance of love, manifested in limitless ways from the Lord, but not all of us are aware are we? It is our awareness, our sensitivity to the grace, mercy, and love that we have received from the Lord that works alongside of His call to “Go!” that results in action, selfless service towards those in need. Let me give you an example from Scripture.
Luke tells us that there was a woman who had lived a sinful life who learned that Jesus had come to her town. Jesus was visiting the home of a Pharisee and everyone in the house was shocked when she walked in. Let’s read part of the story together. Turn with me to Luke 7:37-38.
37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. (Luke 7:37-38 NIV)
She was overcome with emotion. She didn’t care what others thought. She was unconcerned with what others were doing. She was a grateful woman and her gratitude had to be expressed.
There were whispers. You know how people talk. Jesus turned to his host, Simon, and told him a story about two men who owed money. One man owed a lot of money, the other owed a little bit of money. Both men were forgiven their debt. Jesus asked Simon, “Who do you think will love the man who forgave them more?” Simon said, “The one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” Then Jesus turned the spotlight on Simon. Read Luke 7:44-46 with me.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. (Luke 7:44-46 NIV)
Both Simon and the woman had been blessed, but she was the one who responded to the blessings with action. Remember, I said that our willingness to sacrifice, serve, and bless others is in direct correlation to our awareness of the love, grace, and mercy we have received from the Lord. I didn’t make this up, read verse 47 with me.
47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47 NIV)
Is there anyone here this morning who has only been forgiven a little? We have all been lavished with His grace. Jesus paid for all of our sins, past, present, and future sins, on the Cross. If we are aware of these facts, if we have been confronted with our own sin and His abundant mercy, then how can we not respond to those who are in need? It’s baffling isn’t it? I think John, the disciple of Jesus, was just as baffled because in 1 John 3:16-17, he asked,
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:16-17 NIV)
If someone is in need and I simply turn away, how can the love of God be in me? I know the love of God. I’ve experienced it time and time again, each and every day. I also know from God’s Word that one of the best ways for me to express my love for Him is to serve those around me. Remember our verse? Let’s say it again.
10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:10 NIV)
God will not forget the love we have shown Him? How have we shown Him love according to this verse? “..As you have helped his people and continue to help them.” How do we help God’s people? There are a myriad of ways. Handing out lunches to volunteers? You bet. Helping relocate a displaced family? You bet. Providing financial help to those who have lost everything? You bet. Picking up trash in someone’s yard? You bet. These are some of the ways that the followers of Jesus have shown their love for the Lord during the past two weeks, but let’s not forget, there are tornadoes coming today and every day that will tear folks lives apart. What is God doing in the heartache and destruction? Well, there various answers to that question, but I can give you one answer—He’s opening a door of opportunity for you and me to show our love for Him as we show our love and concern for them.
It is my prayer that the outpouring of love, concern, and the willingness to get up and go that has resulted from the destruction of the tornadoes will be like a rock that is dropped into a pool sending out wave after wave. Let’s keep showing the Lord how grateful we are by loving His people. He opens doors of opportunity each and every day for us to show Him how much we love Him. Will you go?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
June 2, 2013