Faithfulness & The Long Journey
Galatians 5:22-23, Proverbs 20:6
First Baptist Church Laurens
July 23, 2017
Back in 1907, a Boston Lawyer named Lawrence Luellen developed a product that you and I use a lot in the summertime. This product came about because back in his day, Luellen was concerned about germs being spread by folks using public drinking fountains. At the time, people drank the water at these fountains from real cups or from dippers. They shared the cups and dippers, didn’t always wash the cups and dippers in between uses, and thus it wasn’t the most sanitary of situations. In turn, Luellen’s brainchild was water vending machine that used a new novelty – paper cups.
Eventually, Luellen’s cups, first known as Health Kups, had a name change and became known as Dixie Cups. That’s right, Luellen’s attempt to sanitize the water fountain ultimately led to the world of paper and plastic cups that are still essential fare for all of our backyard barbecues, picnics, family get togethers and church fellowships.
I am glad you are sitting down this morning because I must share some bad news with you. Dixie Cups were not only first called Health Cups, but, they are not named after our area of the country nor are they manufactured in the South, as I had always thought. Instead, they were named after a line of dolls, called Dixie Dolls and for most of their existence have been manufactured in Pennsylvania. I know – The truth can be cruel! (“Dixie Cups” at wikipedia.com)
Now, I know you find all of this fascinating but I am sure you are wondering why on earth I am beginning today’s sermon with the history of Dixie Cups? I do so because they are a great example of the disposable world in which we live today. Yes, I am sure that without question, each of your extended families have a member or two who put their plastic cups in the dishwasher after use, wash them by hand, reuse them and consider them to be a subset of their everyday ware just like my mom does. But most of us use them because they are a convenience – when we finish with them we can throw them away, discard them when they crack and use a new one with each new cup of iced tea or serving of homemade ice cream just as was intended.
Again, our world is a disposable world. Its not just our paper plates or our plastic tablecloths that are tossed in the trash after one use. We also don’t think it is worth our time or money to fix our televisions, radios, or our push mower. Emmett’s Fix-It Shop doesn’t exist in our world anymore because the vast majority of us live with the mantra that says “it will cost almost as much to get the old one fixed as it will just to buy a new one. So why bother?”
In his book on the Fruit of the Spirit called Life On the Vine, Philip Kenneson says that our modern disposable world has bled into how we approach lots of life not just our paper plates or DVD players. Kenneson very astutely reminds us that we have transitioned to a day where we no longer think that the effort and time required to fix things are worthwhile. So, when our relationships are fractured, when our marriage is broke, when our connection to our church is not working right, when the institutions we have long done business with no longer live up to our standards, we simply discard them, and make a new start just like we do with a Dixie Cup. (Life On The Vine, Philip Kenneson, IVP, 1999, Chapter 8)
This, Kenneson says, is to our detriment not to our benefit and it is not in keeping with the calling of the Fruits of the Spirit to be faithful.
Let me remind us this morning that there are two critical things to know about the Fruit of the Spirit holistically. One we have stated almost every week as we have reminded ourselves that the Fruit of the Spirit are about developing our behavior not our beliefs.
But, the second critical thing to always remember is that the Fruit of the Spirit should live in us because these are the behaviors that live in God and that are so invaluable to us in our relationship with God.
What is one of God’s great characteristics that is so important to us? God’s faithfulness. Each week, we come here to this place to worship because we know that God is here and is here to meet us. Now, we have cheapened this idea with silly statements such as “I just didn’t sense God in that service” or the “Holy Spirit was really there today” as if God stands outside the door every week and waits to see if the choir is off key or if the minister knows what he is talking about before deciding if First Baptist is worth God’s time today.
No, God is here week in and week out awaiting us. God is faithful whether we are or not. And, God is present in our lives with us, in front of us and behind us. God is there in our good days and in our bad. When we do what we should and when we don’t do what we should. God doesn’t leave us if we are his children. And this is true of us when we do what God asks of us or whether we let him down.
One of the marvelous aspects of Salvation, right along side God’s forgiveness of our sins and God’s offering us the gift of eternal life, is the fact that when we invite God into our lives, we can know from that point forward that God will be faithful to us. Life may still not always turn out the way we want and things will not always go our way. But, God will be with us!
As people of faith we celebrate God’s faithfulness. We cling to it, we need it, we can’t live without it. In turn, God is looking for a similar faithfulness from us.
Now, I am in no way suggesting that there are not occasional times where we need to make changes in our lives or sever long standing relationships or give up on things that are simply never going to come to be. Without question, those times come. But, I am saying that we need to think long and hard, we need to pray hard and we need to take plenty of time to wrestle with any such decision. I am also saying that often our tendency to want to jump ship in all sorts of life situations says more about our unwillingness and lack of desire to fix things than it says about the inability of the same situation to be repaired.
This past Wednesday morning in our study of Simplify. our topic was friendship. As I prepared for our time together, I found myself thinking about an occasion in my life that happened over twenty years ago now. A dear friend and I were at odds with each other. We had reached a point where we no longer enjoyed being in each other’s presence and we had no more than two words to say to each other when we saw one another. Simply put, our friendship was on the verge of being tossed in the trash. I honestly don’t remember which of the two of us had the courage to speak up. But, one of us finally admitted that something had come between us and we agreed to meet one evening to try to work out our differences. I still remember the conversation. Though, I remember very little about what was actually said, I do remember that event being what saved our friendship which remains strong today. In essence, the decision was made that we could fix this rather than throwing it away. The decision was that trying to repair things was worth the effort.
What relationship or longstanding commitment are you on the verge of throwing away? Is it really because it is beyond being fixed? Or, is it because we are not willing to take the time and effort to fix it?
Faithfulness to the important things in our lives is our response to God’s faithfulness to us. But, faithfulness, is also our way of teaching our children, our grandchildren and others who are influenced by us as we set a good example for them to follow.
Here is what I mean. Our children and grandchildren need to see our commitment and faithfulness to people, institutions and even to our dreams. They don’t need to hear us only talk about faithfulness that stands the test of time or in thick or thin, they need to watch us demonstrate these same principles. Rather than give our children and grandchildren a free pass that allows them to walk away anytime relationships or situations become difficult , we must challenge them to work to fix things and we must exhibit a willingness to do the same in our own lives.
The most popular movie in America right now is an example of faithfulness. Dunkirk is the true story of British resilience in the early days of World War II. In late May, 1940, British and French soldiers as well as the other Allies of the time were surrounded by the Germans on the beach of Dunkirk, France. It was almost the end of the war in its earliest of days. Yet, the film tells the story of countless individuals from military and civilian life who simply refused to give up or give in including the fact that 800 civilian boats made their way from England to the beach at Dunkirk to help get their boys home. Eventually 300,000 soldiers were evacuated from Dunkirk and lived to fight another day. They could have all so easily given up yet our freedom is proof that they did not.
Where are you tempted to throw in the towel, walk away or give up? The temptation is real but so is the Spirit’s call to stay the course. Amen.