Sermon Options: September 18, 2022

February 20th, 2022


1 TIMOTHY 2:1-7

According to the Internet, as of Wednesday morning, August 21, 2013 at 10:30 AM, the population of the world stood at 7,106,195,575. That's a lot of people. So vast is that number that if you were to count every person on planet earth, one person at a time at the rate of one person per second, you would complete your counting sometime during the year 2238, some 225 years from now. We can't count that high. We can't even imagine that many people, but that's our world. Red and yellow, black and white. And according to God's own Word, all are precious in his sight.

God thinks global thoughts. God thinks about everybody and it only makes sense that he does. God created everybody, he loves everybody. God knows the thoughts and the intentions of the hearts of all people. God desires fellowship with every person. God wants to dance with all creation to the joyful songs of his eternal Kingdom. God wants you in his Kingdom. He wants me, he wants us all.

I. God Is Pleased When We Pray for Others (v. 1)

A modern paraphrase of the New Testament entitled, The Message, translates verse 1 this way: "The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know". Paul affirms the importance of prayer and the need for prayer on behalf of all people. Paul offers a call to be inclusive in the scope of our prayers. We need to pray for all people, because God desires that all people become a part of his eternal Kingdom.

Most of us are good about praying for people we love, people we know, people with whom we work. But our prayers must go beyond our comfort zone to include all others because God is thinking global thoughts.

Alan Paton, in his novel, Cry, the Beloved Country, describes the pain and inner turmoil of a black priest named Kumalo. Kumalo's son, who has moved away to Johannesburg, is convicted of murdering a white man, who happens to be the son of Kumalo's neighbor. The last scene of the book describes Kumalo during the early morning hours on the day that his son is to be executed. He has taken some tea and maize cakes and has climbed to the top of a familiar mountain where he spends those restless moments in prayer. As the dawn approaches he prays with even greater fervor, not for the release of his son, but for his forgiveness. And then in that poignant moment, he prays for others, the family of the slain white man, the judge who has pronounced the verdict, the people of Johannesburg, some who had led his son to ruin, and others who have befriended and helped Kumalo in his search for his son. It is a soul-searching, gut-wrenching prayer. It is an inclusive prayer. Inclusive prayers are not always easy, but they are what God desires.

II. God Is Pleased When People Come to Faith (vv. 4)
To be saved is to be rescued. God desires to rescue us from the destiny that is ours as a result of our sins. Our sins pull us in the wrong direction. They lead us away from God; they erect a barrier that divides us from God. And yet God desires that we be rescued, saved, and brought into the fellowship of the kingdom of God. He sends his son Jesus as the safety net to bring us to himself. God desires that those who stand on the outside be brought to the inside.

Did you hear the bizarre story about an unusual 911 rescue? It seems that a woman who suffers with sleep apnea trained her dog to use the phone in the event of an emergency. Last week, during the night, her oxygen supply malfunctioned and an alarm went off. The dog heard the alarm and began to bark. Unable to awaken his owner, the dog then went to the phone and knocked the receiver off the hook and began pressing the phone button with his paw. The woman had programmed all her speed dial buttons to dial 911 and had trained the dog to hit any key. Amazingly enough the dog hit a key, it dialed 911, and soon help was on the way. Now that's a doggone rescue!

What joy and comfort there is in knowing that our God goes to extremes to rescue us. He offers the life of his Son in exchange for our freedom. God desires to save us; all we have to do is respond in faith. "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Acts 2:21) .

What does God expect of us in his global desire to save all? He expects three things: our prayers, our witness, and our willingness. God expects us at anytime, in any place, in front of anybody, to be used in his work. We must be ready, willing, and able to serve. God needs your willingness this day, and everyday. (Jon R. Roebuck)


LUKE 16:1-13

Once there was a chief executive officer whose vice president of finance was reported to have badly managed company affairs. So the CEO said to this VP, "Your performance is inadequate; some would say you've been culpably negilgent. Turn in your records and your keys and clear out your office by 5:00 P.M."

The VP was panicked. She was too old to look for a new job, too young to retire, and too proud to apply for unemployment. What was she to do? Then she had an inspiration. She accessed accounts receivable and chose three customers most behind in their payments. She called the first and said, "Tom, we're anxious to get this debt off our books. If you can pay by the 15th, I'll give you a 25 percent reduction in your liability."

To the second she confided: "J.C., we've been conducting an internal audit, found a few errors. What do your records show that you owe us? Forty-six thousand dollars? No, according to my records, your debt is forty."

She informed the third company that a shipping error reduced this account by one-third. At the close of each conversation she said that she planned to leave her present position soon and hoped they would keep her in mind.

Later, when she walked out with reduced pension benefits, no health insurance, and a paltry sum for severance pay, there was a smile on her face. Within a month she was hired as a consultant by each firm she had called that day.

The next time her old boss saw her at the yacht club, she hurried to leave, but he caught up with her and slapped her on the shoulder. "Kiddo, I've gotta hand it to you. You can shoot pool with the best of us. I couldn't have thought of a better scheme myself."

And then Jesus said, "For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light. And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity" (Luke 16:8 b-9 JB).

Even such a lover of Scripture as John Calvin characterized the parable of the wicked steward as "hard and far-fetched." The story strains credulity and jolts our ethical sensibilities. Would anyone congratulate the scoundrel who first mismanaged his employer's funds and then cheated him out of recovering legitimate debts? Is Jesus holding up such unscrupulous dealings as exemplary?

But perhaps the human figures of steward and master in the parable do not represent God's people and God, or the master our Master. Imagine, instead, that Jesus is making this ironic comparison: "Look at scoundrels who spend their time and energy scheming to ensure their own comfort and security. If only my followers would be that shrewd, that creatively reckless, that single-minded in serving me!"

The parable is followed by sayings of Jesus that seem to contradict the story as we first heard it, so perhaps we did misunderstand. Then comes this conclusion: "You cannot serve God and money." Consistent with the teaching of the Hebrew prophets, Jesus has sounded a warning against the worship of wealth, but invites its good use in generosity toward others. Moreover, he suggests that an accounting is kept for that day when money will not serve us at all.

"Look," the man said, "here's the deal. You've been given the resources you need, not just for your own use, but to share. If you are faithful and generous, you will have a place in this corporate body of mine. And, I promise you, the benefits are out of this world." (Janna Tull Steed)

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