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Jack Graham - Choosing Action Over Apathy

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    Jack Graham - Choosing Action Over Apathy
TOPICS: Jack Graham: Choices, Choices, Apathy

Take your Bibles and turn with me, please, to the book of Proverbs. Chapter 29 is where we will begin. And I want to speak to you today on the subject: "Choosing Action over Apathy". Vision is so important to an organization, to a church and to our personal lives. We all must have a personal vision and mission of what God wants to accomplish in our lives, our families, our future. And we want that vision to be good, but beyond good, we want it to be great. God calls us, therefore, to serve Him; to move from fence-straddling and pew-sitting, spiritual couch potatoes to being active, aggressive, obedient joyful servants of Christ!

You say, "Well, I'm a busy person". Well, God always calls busy people. Moses was busy tending the flocks when God spoke to him out of the burning bush and called him to deliver Israel. God never calls the lazy or the idle or the half-hearted. He typically calls people that are already doing things for Him. Genesis 24:27, "I being in the way, the Lord led me". Have you ever noticed that it's much easier to steer a car when it's in motion than one that's standing still? Isn't it interesting that so often the most vibrant and busy people are the ones that God keeps using in a great way? So we don't want to be satisfied with who we are and where we are. We don't want to settle for that. We want to get out of our "who-cares" attitudes, or "let somebody else do it" spirit!

We want to all engage in the work of Christ. So what motivates us from apathy to action; from mediocrity to moving for the glory of God; from a religious consumer (which is a problem in the contemporary church, religious consumerism) to move from being a religious consumer, a consumer of religion to becoming a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. I want to mention three virtues that we find in the book of Proverbs that will help us move from mediocrity to greatness, from apathy to action. And the first of these is obedience. Proverbs 29:18 says this: "Where there is no prophetic vision", that is, a great vision from God for your life, "the people cast off restraint", there's chaos, there's rebellion where there is no vision, "but blessed is he who keeps the law". Remember the Gospel song "Trust and Obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey". Obedience!

Proverbs 13, verse 18: "Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored". We are not only to be hearers of the Word but we are to be doers of the Word! Proverbs 21, verse 3: "To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice". When Saul lost the kingdom, assumed by David, anointed by God, Saul the great King who was the man who might have been. He had so much but he did so little with so much and on one occasion he incompletely, inconsistently disobeyed God. God told him to do something; he didn't do it; he was out; David was in. And in that conversation between Samuel, the great prophet of God and Saul who was begging to stay in his role and fought to stay in his role, it was then that God said, 1 Samuel 15:22, "To obey is better than sacrifice"!

Obedience is better than giving our money, than showing up at church and just being a religious consumer when God has called us to be a passionate follower of Christ. Live in obedience to Christ; that is the joy of life. Now to be sure faith and faith in Christ alone and His grace is what saves, but the faith that saves alone is never alone. The faith that saves works! The same passage that tells us that Ephesians 2:8, "We are saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God", you can't earn your way, deserve your way into eternal life. The same passage says that Ephesians 2:10, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works". Finding your purpose in life, finding your meaning, finding your direction in your career, in your calling; this is what motivates us as we obey God!

In spiritual service we are commanded to share Christ, to be witnesses. We need to be held accountable to that because that is a commandment to Christ. We are commanded to be faithful worshipers and prayer warriors! We are commanded to give generously to the work of Christ. We are commanded to know and love God's Word, to study God's Word. We are commanded to live holy, straight-edged lives for Christ. Not just happy but holy lives! These are the commands of God! These are the commands of Christ. Are we living in obedience to Christ?

Elijah gathered the people of Israel on a mountain one day, Carmel, alone with the prophets of Baal and the worshippers of Baal, a false deity, an idol. An idol is anything in your heart that has a greater, stronger devotion than God Himself in your life. Anything you love more, serve more, worship more than God is an idol. An idol of the heart. He gathered the people together, said, "Let the God who answers by fire be God". He said to the children of Israel, "How long will you limp along between two opinions? If God be God, serve Him. If Baal is god, go do that! But away with this whitewashed middle; away with the mediocrity! Obey God"!

Why is it that so many Christians don't live like Christians? Why is it that the world looks at us and wonders why we don't live our faith? Do unbelievers see in you a life that they want to live in Christ? Or do they say, "You know, I got plenty of problems already. I don't add religion as another one of my problems"! Do they see your obedience and say, "What he has that's what I want"! This kind of commitment and obedience must be renewed daily. When we do, it comes from the heart. I'm not talking about living on a list. I'm not talking about legalism. I'm talking about a love for Christ that obeys Him. What did Jesus say? John 14:15, "If you love Me, keep My what? My commandments". Proverbs says, "My son, give me your heart". It is from the heart that we obey God. Not external pressure, but internal love and devotion for Christ.

Psalm 51:6 says: "Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart". Remember, God will not take you one step further than your measure of obedience to Him. That's a virtue: obedience to God and His Word that will move you from apathy to action! Not just sitting there, but actually doing something with your life that makes a difference in the world. Not simply making a living, but making a life; not just existing but really living! What gets you up in the morning should be the trumpets of God, the call of God that moves you! You say, "Well, my job's boring. You know, I'm just tired of going to work. I'm tired of doing the same thing over, over and over". Remember, God has put you where He's put you not primarily to make money but as a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. And whatever you do in your calling in life, be obedient to God and watch God ignite you because vision produces passion and passion produces energy in your life.

Secondly is diligence. That's the second virtue that will spark you and ignite you to get moving. Proverbs 10:4 and 5: "A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame". In the book of Proverbs, and we advise you and encourage you to read Proverbs every day. A chapter a day in Proverbs will give you skills for successful living, the wisdom of God. But when you read it you will discover that there is a word that appears again and again in about five Hebrew forms, one or two in the English, but it's simply the word slacker or sluggard or slothful. A slothful person. I mean, that just sounds bad, doesn't it? Slothful! Walk in today and tell your kids all laid up, "You're just slothful"! That sounds really bad! But it's a word which means basically lazy and lethargic.

The church fathers organized some of the sins in what is now known as the seven deadly sins. They're not deadly in the sense that they cannot be forgiven, every sin can be forgiven in Christ. But these were considered categorically among the worst sins. They are pride and envy and gluttony and lust and anger and greed and sloth! A sloth is an animal, you know. A sloth was walking through the jungle one day when he's set upon by a band of vicious snails. The snails left him bleeding and confused at the bottom of a tree where he later found enough strength and energy to get up and go to the local police station and report the assault. The sloth was asked to describe his attackers, and he said, "I don't know what they looked like! It all happened so fast"! Slothful. But slothfulness is not a good thing.

Writer Gina Barreca wrote in the Chicago Tribune: "Sloth is insidious. It whispers that you might as well do it tomorrow; that nobody will know if you cut corners here and there to save yourself some trouble; that the world will be the same in one hundred years no matter what you do, so why do anything. Sloth says 'Don't strain yourself', 'What's the big hurry?' 'Just give me five more minutes.' Sloth hits the snooze alarm, hits the remote control".

I gotta confess somethin' to ya on that one. The other evening we were up in my man-cave upstairs (I have a man-cave where I watch sports. You have to be invited into the man-cave). And we were there watching with the family a Mavs game and I realized that I'd not set the recorder downstairs to record the Ranger's game going on at the same time. (I'm so grateful for DVRs! Greatest invention since air conditioning, in my opinion.) Here's what I did, I had my handy iPhone, and rather than get up from my slothful lazy position in the man-cave laid out, I simply took my direct-TV app from upstairs, plugged it in and set it from up there downstairs so it was done when I got there. I was too lazy to get up and go downstairs and do it myself. That is slothfulness.

"And hits the road. Sloth hits the road when the going gets tough! Sloth cheats on exams, drinks milk straight from the milk carton and leaves exactly two sheets on the toilet roll so that it will have to be replaced so that it will have to be replaced by the next poor soul who finds out too late that the remaining paper is nothing more than a mirage"! My wife asked me not to repeat that after hearing it at the second service but I was too lazy to change it! Alright, "Sloth does slightly less than the right thing. It doesn't bother returning something to the lost and found but pockets it instead. It doesn't tell the clerk if he has undercharged. Sloth has never written a thank you note, sent a birthday card on time, or entertained angels! All this simply asks too much effort".

Slothfulness. God has said work is good. Work's a good thing. In fact, have you ever notice that when you're lazy, it creates more laziness? The fastest way to depression in your life is just to lie down and quit. Best way to be defeated is to quit in life. God tells us over and over again that we are to provide for our households. We're to take care of our families. "If a man won't work", the Scripture says, "neither shall he eat". Proverbs 19, verse 15: "Slothfulness cast into deep sleep and an idle person will suffer hunger". Romans 12:11 in the New Testament picks up on this theme: "Do not be slothful in zeal", this is talking about serving Christ. "Don't be slothful in zeal; be fervent in spirit. Serve the Lord"! You know one of my favorites, of course. I've repeated it again and again.

First Corinthians 15:58 out of the high theology of the resurrection. It ends in verse 58, the resurrection chapter: "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, you know your labor is not in vain in the Lord". Work! Some people don't know work when they see it because it comes dressed in overalls and carries a wheelbarrow. Hebrews 6:12 says: "So that you may be not sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promise". You know what gives you creditability for Christ and the Gospel at your office with your co-workers is your strong work ethic. The Christ ought to do more than the average, better than the average! God has called us not to just do an okay job or to do our duties, but to exceed with excellence. "Excellence in all things, and all things to the glory of God".

Slothfulness and sluggishness is basically selfishness. It's the apathy which says, "I don't care. Let somebody else do it! I'm too tired; I'm too old; I'm retired; I quit"! No, no, no! Not apathy but action! Slothfulness can mean to be remiss in something, careless and negligent and lacks and inconsistent. I don't want to be inconsistent in my walk and my work with Christ. I want to be faithful. Who can find a faithful man? Proverbs 15:9 says: "The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway". Proverbs 18:9: "Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys". A slothful man neglects his work and the material to go to ruin. The brother he destroys are the materials.

Proverbs 21:25: "The desire of the sluggard kills him for his hands refuse labor". You lay around, you do nothing and out of the blue you get attacked by a herd of snails and far worse. And you don't know what happened! Slothfulness! God even uses the ant and the industriousness of the ant and compares to the indolence and the indulgence of those who are sluggards. Proverbs 6:6-8: "Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways and be wise. Without having any chief officer or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest". You can learn a lot from an ant. Ant-ology! Because an ant without any apparent leadership, labors incessantly for the food.

Proverbs 23:21: "For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty and slumber will cloth them with rags". On the spiritual side, of course, slothfulness hurts you in your work, your secular work, your job. It's a poor testimony, damaging to your own success in life. But certainly spiritually. These are the days of harvest. Jesus said John 4:35, "White are the fields unto harvest". Jesus condemned the lazy servant in the parable of the talents. I don't want to be lazy in the harvest. I never want to get to the place in my life where I say, "I'm done; I'm finished; who cares; let somebody else do it".

God has called us, not to complacency but commitment. I want to live in joyful, active, obedience all the days of my life! This isn't automatic; it requires discipline over indulgence! Dietrich Bonhoeffer, well known now because of the biography by his name, biography, spoke of cheap grace: "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without repentance, communion without confession, heaven without hell, grace without discipleship, religion without Christ". Let us always be vigilant and diligent in the work of Christ because we're not laying up for ourselves treasures on earth but treasures in heaven. We're working for the Master; we're serving Him. Your boss, your board, your business, that's not your master. Christ is your Master as a follower of Jesus. You're working for Him. If you're a homemaker or a surgeon, a developer, a construction worker, whatever you do; you're working for Him!

Colossians 3:17, "Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ"! Because we will give an account at the Judgment Seat of Christ of what we have done with our lives. Galatians 6:7, "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked: Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap". If you sow industriousness and if you sow diligence, if you sow commitment, if you sow your life and your best, you're going to reap not only what you sow, but more than you sow! It wouldn't profit a farmer if a farmer planted a seed and got one apple! You plant a seed; you get a lot of apples! You plant your life as a seed, you give your money as a seed to the work of Christ, you develop your life as a devoted follower of Christ, you invest your life and you will get not only what you sow, but you'll get more than you sowed later than you sowed.

You may not see it until another lifetime, but you will see it. Jesus said a cup of cold water given in My name will not go unnoticed at the judgment. The opposite of that is true, of course. We reap what we sow. You sow the wind, the Bible says, you reap the whirlwind. You sow sin and carnality and you're going to reap corruption and death. So it's a choice we make, isn't it? This is all about choices. Do I choose obedience? Do I choose diligence? And one final thing in two minutes, resilience.

Proverbs 21:21: "Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness and honor". Pursue is a strong word; it means to chase down. In spite of what the world says, you're going to pursue righteousness. In spite of what your flesh says, you're going to pursue godliness and life and honor. Proverbs 24:10 and 11: "If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back that who are stumbling to the slaughter".

Alright, listen, church. May we be ever resilient. May we press on in the task and the mission that God has given us. To be resilient. If you want a muscular faith, you have to keep working it. You gotta overcome your inner dough boy and keep going and doing and serving. You know what the problem is with so many churches today? Their "go" is broken! And I am determined as long as God gives us life and breath that we will keep going and sowing in Jesus' name. I want to be resilient! That's a robust faith! That's a muscular faith! That's a faith that is resilient against all odds; to keep moving even when you can't feel you can go another step! Because people are dying, people are crying, people are broken, and we have been called to "rescue the perishing, care for the dying; and snatch them from pity and sin and the grave".

In a broken world God has given us a life. What we do with that life, just as that life is God's gift to us, what we do with that life is now our gift back to God. May God give us true obedience and tough resilience, and tenacious vigilance and diligence at our jobs, at our church, in our families, in our homes! Jesus said, "Work, for the hour is coming when no man will be able to work"! Work while it is day, for there's coming a time when day will be done and the crops will be in, and only what we've done for Jesus Christ will last.
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