Sermon Options: August 11, 2024

July 1st, 2021

The Humpty-Dumpty Syndrome

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

Absalom lay peacefully in his mother’s arms as his father, David, looked on. But what a paradox. The child whose name meant “peaceful” would burst upon the pages of history with a vengeance. Murder, seduction, hatred, rebellion, and war would become his trademarks. Even his death would be anything but peaceful.

Absalom suffered from what we could call the “Humpty-Dumpty syndrome.” Like the character in the children’s rhyme, Absalom thought he couldn’t fall, but life came crashing in on him and he did fall! And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Absalom together again.

What caused Absalom’s downfall? How can we avoid his mistakes?

I. Absalom’s Life Demonstrated Revenge

The Bible describes the trickery of Absalom’s half brother, Amnon, who raped Absalom’s beautiful sister, Tamar (2 Sam. 13). Like a cancerous cell, revenge spread quickly in Absalom’s heart until it dominated his every waking moment. Revenge asks how to take the law into one’s own hands to carry out the punishment of the guilty. David never punished Amnon for his despicable act, but Absalom planned in his heart the steps necessary for revenge, and carried them out (2 Sam. 13:32) .

The character flaw of revenge appears as:

• a relentless pursuer never satisfied until hatred is fulfilled.
• desire, not for justice but for selfish victory over another.
• restlessness—until a twisted action is taken.
• fanaticism that leaves logic in the dust.

What about your life? Has someone hurt you so deeply that you have lost sight of equitable punishment and allowed revenge to rob you of life’s peace? Get a grip on revenge now. Ask God for forgiveness. Deal with the matter with human help. Get on with life.

II. Absalom’s Life Demonstrated a Lack of Moral Responsibility

Absalom carried out his plan by murdering his brother Amnon. He then flees from his act of violence to Talmai, his maternal grandfather (2 Sam. 13:38) . At his home he found asylum.

The question of morality is on the mind of the nation. Who is right and who is wrong? Where do we get our morality?

Christians look to the Bible as the foundation for our morality, for which the Ten Commandments forms the basis. The Beatitudes are the principles of sacred attitude (Matt. 5:1-12). Truth, righteousness, and holiness become our watchword and song in life—all of which point to moral responsibility.

III. Absalom’s Life Demonstrated a Divorce in Relationships

There is a sad verse in 2 Samuel 16, which reads, “then all the Israelites will hear that your father is your enemy” (v. 21b, New Century Version). Divorce culminates in separation from any type of relationship. Somewhere in Absalom’s heart he divorced his dad. It may have started when David refused to punish Amnon for Tamar’s rape, but probably it developed years before in quite subtle ways. David’s busy schedule of running a nation, going off to war, and ruling a palace all interfered with his relationship with Absalom. What legitimate activities have separated you from someone you love?

IV. Absalom’s Life Ends Without Remorse

Remorse never entered Absalom’s mind when he became entangled in the large oak tree (2 Sam. 18:9) . He probably died cursing his father as he had done all of his life, even as Joab threw the first javelin into his heart (2 Sam. 18:14).

Many people die without any remorse for the things they did or the way they acted. Revenge, immorality, separation, and hatred all contribute to a great fall in life. How can we avoid this kind of scenario? Only by asking God for help, repenting for wrong motives and actions, and daily consecrating ourselves to God. (Derl G. Keefer)

Learning How to Encourage Others

Ephesians 4:25–5:2

Remember the old children’s verse, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? The older we become the more we realize that words do hurt. Hurtful words coupled with hurtful actions are much more painful than “sticks and stones.” The sting of hurtful words and actions can remain with us for years.

Christians ought to encourage others with their words and actions. We often are not sure how to do this. In Ephesians 4:1 –5:2, the apostle Paul instructs believers in how to encourage others through words and actions. In these verses we learn six ways to encourage others.

I. We Encourage Others by Speaking the Truth in Love

The first way we can encourage one another is by removing falsehood and speaking the truth in love. This is one coin with two sides. One side states that we must stop lying to each other, while the other side of the coin says we must speak the truth in a loving manner. Many times we try to avoid conflicts by fudging on the truth. We do not want to hurt the other person’s feelings, or so we tell ourselves. Actually, we probably don’t want to get involved to the point that we put ourselves at risk. Loving relationships, though, mean that we do put ourselves in the place where we can be hurt for another’s welfare.

At the same time we must not be blunt to the extent that we needlessly offend. Love must be our guide. We must ask ourselves what is the most loving way to express the truth.

II. We Encourage Others by Not Allowing Our Anger to Become Sin

A second direction for encouraging others is found in verse 26. While anger is an emotion that arises in any relationship, we must not allow our anger to become sin. Biblical anger always involves a righteous reaction to sinfulness. But biblical anger is always seasoned by love and redemption. Sinful anger wants to hurt and get revenge. Don’t allow your anger to damage a relationship. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.”

III. We Encourage Others by Working Hard

Paul expresses a third manner in which we can encourage other people, and that is through sharing the goods we have gained through hard work. In verse 28 we are admonished not to steal but to work hard in order to have something to share with those who are in need. Sometimes the best thing we can do for someone is to supply a material need. Providing food or clothes or paying a medical bill can build others up in ways we could never imagine. The only way we can meet such a need is to be in a position financially to do so. Consequently, our income through gainful employment becomes a means for encouraging others.

IV. We Encourage Others by Speaking Positive Words

Verse 29 is a verse that seems to tower over the rest of the passage. Words are not neutral. The words we say are either positive, which means they build up other people, or they are negative, which means they tear down other people. Evaluating our words as to whether they are positive or negative is one of the most difficult things for us to do. We need to be concerned with more than what we say and why we say it. We must be mindful of the way the other person hears and receives what we say. Perhaps the most encouraging thing we can do for others is to use our words to build them up.

V. We Encourage Others by Forgiving Them

The fifth way our passage teaches us to build up others is by forgiving them. Forgiveness means not taking into account wrongs we suffer. Forgiveness also involves treating the one who has sinned against us as though he or she has not done anything to us. We can forgive others even if they do not ask for our forgiveness, but full reconciliation takes place only when they admit their wrongs and ask our forgiveness.

Think of the times in your life when you have had to ask for forgiveness. Can you remember how encouraging it was when you received forgiveness? So we need to be “tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

VI. We Encourage Others by Walking in Love

Paul’s final exhortation on how we can encourage others is to walk in love. Our whole attitude and demeanor should be characterized by love. Such a character trait includes putting others before ourselves, wanting and working for the best for and in others, being patient and kind, and hoping and believing in others. Love is an action and not soupy sentimentality. We can encourage others best when we love them most.

The apostle Paul has given us practical instruction into exactly how we can encourage other people. The hard part for us is to apply what we know is right. Our relationships with each other deserve the greatest effort we can exert. When we put into practice what the Scriptures teach us we enjoy healthy and happy relationships. (Douglas Walker)

Satisfaction Guaranteed

John 6:35, 41-51

Hunger hurts! When you haven’t had enough to eat it is painful. I vividly remember a meal shared with fellow theological students. After we had said grace one student said to me, “I just don’t understand why we pray over our food. None of us have ever been without food. Most of us have eaten too much of it today, and we are struggling with a weight problem. We should not be grateful for food, but grateful when we can resist its allure.”

This person’s problem was that he had never been without food before, never been weakened because of the lack of food. The average person in the world will eat one small meal today, and 10,000 will die due to the lack of food. Hunger hurts!

Hunger for food was assumed in biblical times, and with the context of this universal experience Jesus spoke the controversial words, “I am the bread of life.” It was a statement that was sure to get everyone’s attention. What was Jesus saying about himself?

I. I Am a Staple

Verse 41 says that “the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven. ” It didn’t take them long, did it? Wouldn’t you complain about me if I said, “I am the bread of life.” You would consider that outrageous! They thought it was ridiculous that Jesus should make such an audacious claim. “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” (v. 42).

Bread is a universal staple. It was in biblical times, and it is now. According to Webster’s, a staple is a “chief item of trade, regularly stocked and in constant demand”; “a most important, leading principal.” Jesus is claiming that life is made up of many pressures, many opinions, many struggles, many decisions, but there is one thing that is basic to all of life—himself.

The Jews had every right to complain about someone who would make such a broad claim. Either Jesus was someone they had never encountered before, or he was in need of the services of the mental health clinic.

II. I Satisfy

It is no secret that God has created us with a “God-space” in our lives, and until we fill it with God we will be hungry and thirsty. Job expressed this when he cried, “Oh, that I knew where I might find [God], that I might come even to his dwelling!” (23:3).

Jesus guarantees that he will fill the hunger that we all have for spiritual fulfillment.

Job’s cry is the cry of everyone. Nothing satisfies our longing for the Deity but the Divine. Junk food may relieve our hunger for a time, but a steady diet of junk food will produce indigestion. Likewise, if we try to fill our spiritual hunger with things of the world, we will never be satisfied. Jesus is the staple that permanently satisfies our desire to have fellowship with our Creator. When we accept Jesus we are satisfied. Satisfaction guaranteed . . . by God. (C. Thomas Hilton)

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