In the summer that I was eighteen, I preached for the Mount Della Church of Christ, a small, rural congregation in the hills of east Tennessee. Among the families that were a part of that congregation was a family named Wallace. Load Wallace, the father, had served in the Second World War. He had been a part of the liberation force that occupied Paris, France.

Each summer on July a weekend, the congregation had a huge dinner-on-the- ground at a nearby wilderness area. It combined family reunions, church fellowship, and neighborly get-together into one occasion. Two, perhaps three times, more people attended this get-together than attended the congregation.

These were good hearted country people, so there would be all kinds of country food and country cooking. Even though there were virtually no prosperous people in that little country community or the congregation, there would be lots and lots of food.

The Wallace family did not come to the meal part of the gathering. They ate at home and afterward came to spend the afternoon with the group. Their not eating with the group had nothing to do with religious issues. Nor did they think that the people who prepared the meal and shared it were doing something wrong.

They didn't come to the meal because of Lloyd's experience in Paris, France. That experience created such a powerful, overwhelming memory that he never attended any gathering that served food. This was the memory: a soldier in Paris came out of the mess tent and scraped the food that he did not eat into garbage can. A long line of men, women, and children stood quietly, patiently at the garbage cans. These people had little to eat for months, and food was scarce. They stood in line waiting for the opportunity to get some of the food that the solders threw away.

When I met Lloyd, it had been over 13 years since he watched that line of men, women, and children in Paris. But he could not forget them. He simply could not eat anywhere there was a lot of food and a lot of waste.

We never know how blessed we are until we see the lives of people who do not have our blessings.

Is it enough to be grateful? Or is there purpose in our blessings?

  1. Several thousand years ago a man who would become famous lived in a city named Ur.
    1. The city of Ur had the most prosperous, advanced culture in his known world.
      1. In Acts 7:2,3 the preacher Stephen said that God asked this man to leave his extended family and the city of Ur.
      2. The man left Ur, but his extended family traveled with him to a place called Haran (Genesis 11:31).
      3. The man and his extended family settled in Haran until his father died.
      4. After his father died, God again asked this man to leave his extended family and to allow God to lead him to a country that God wanted to show him (Genesis 12:1-4).
    2. God promised him six extraordinary blessings if he would leave his relatives and allow God to lead him to this country God wanted him to see.
      1. God promised:
        1. I will cause your child to become a great nation of people.
        2. I will bless you personally.
        3. I will give you a name that will be famous and will be remembered.
        4. I will bless those who are gracious and kind to you.
        5. I will curse those who dare to be your enemies.
        6. What I will do through you will be so important that all humanity will be blessed because of you.
      2. Those are incredible promises! What if God made those promises to you?
        1. The descendants of your child would actually become a nation.
        2. God would bless you personally.
        3. You would have a name that will never be forgotten.
        4. I will bless your friends.
        5. I will curse your enemies.
        6. I will bring a blessing to all humanity through you.
      3. How do you think those promises would affect you?
        1. Do you think you might have a problem with arrogance?
        2. How do you think you would feel when you thought about the specific promises God made to you, personally?
      4. How we would feel probably would depend on our understanding of why God was doing this.
      5. God made why He was doing this quite clear to Abraham:
        1. "Abraham, I, God, promise you that I will do these six things for you."
        2. "But, Abraham, there is something that you must understand."
        3. "I will bless you in these ways, but I expect you to be a blessing."
        4. "That is your responsibility: be a blessing."
      6. Dr. John T. Willis of Abilene Christian University states that the original language of "be a blessing" is written in the form of a divine command, or, "I promise you that I will bless you, Abraham, and I command you to be a blessing."
    3. God's purpose and objective in blessing Abraham were not fulfilled by merely helping Abraham.
      1. God was giving Abraham the opportunity to become a person who lived by faith.
      2. God was giving Abraham an opportunity to use himself, his immediate family, and his life to help achieve God's eternal purposes.
      3. Life would not be about the prosperity and physical joys of Abraham; life would be about the eternal purposes of God.
      4. God was not offering Abraham blessings for no greater purpose or reason than the physical well being and earthly happiness of Abraham.
      5. God was offering blessings to Abraham IF Abraham would develop the faith that allowed God to lead him and IF Abraham would accept the responsibility to be a blessing.
      6. Abraham's blessings were not about Abraham's earthly pleasures; Abraham's blessings were about the eternal purposes of God.
      7. God made it clear to Abraham: "My blessings carry with them the responsibility to be a blessing."

  2. Let's take a giant leap forward in time.
    1. I don't know the exact dates of Abraham's life, but let's say Abraham lived around two thousand B.C.
      1. So let's leap ahead 2000 years.
      2. Jesus Christ is alive and working in his early ministry.
      3. Paul said in Galatians 3:8,16 that Jesus was the specific, literal fulfillment of God's promise to bless all humanity through Abraham.
        1. All humanity is blessed in Jesus.
        2. According to Paul, all humanity is blessed in Jesus because God justifies any person who places his/her faith in the crucified, resurrected Jesus.
      4. God kept all his promises to Abraham.
        1. The descendants of his son Isaac became the nation of Israel.
        2. He made Abraham a wealthy man.
        3. He gave Abraham a name that is still known 4000 years after he lived.
        4. He blessed Abraham's friends.
        5. He cursed Abraham's enemies.
        6. God's son, Jesus, became the sacrifice for the sins of all humanity--when Jesus died on the cross, all humanity could be blessed through Jesus.
      5. God intended for His eternal purposes to be accomplished through Jesus' life and death.
        1. Jesus came.
        2. Eternal salvation through Jesus Christ became an indestructible reality when Jesus was raised from the dead.
        3. When Jesus died and arose from the death, God accomplished His most important objective--the existence of the forgiveness of all sin for any person who entered Jesus Christ and allowed him to be his/her Savior.
    2. As the time drew close to Jesus' death, Jesus knew it.
      1. Matthew records a teaching that Jesus gave late in the last week of his life (Matthew 25:14-30).
        1. A wealthy man was to take a long trip and did not know when he would return.
        2. Since there were no banks, no certificates of deposits, no stock markets, no investment shelters, the man called three capable, trustworthy slaves.
        3. He gave the first $500,000 dollars to care for while he was gone because this slave had the ability to care for $500,000.
        4. He gave the second $200,000 to care for while he was gone because this slave had the ability to care for $200,000.
        5. He gave the third $100,000 to care for while he was gone because this slave had the ability to care for $100,000.
        6. Then he left on his trip.
      2. The slave with $500,000 put the money to work and made another $500,00.
      3. The slave with $200,000 put the money to work and made another $200,000.
      4. The slave with $100,000 was afraid, hid the money, and gave back to his master exactly what the master had entrusted to him.
      5. The first two slaves were rewarded beyond their imagination, and the last was punished without mercy.
    3. Jesus' teaching is not about money; it is a parable about the kingdom of heaven.
      1. The purpose of the parable is to teach us a lesson about people who are a part of the kingdom that belongs to Jesus Christ.
      2. In this story, certain things are to be understood.
        1. Jesus is the wealthy man who has gone on a long trip.
        2. We who are in the kingdom are the slaves who belong to him.
        3. He has intrusted us with his wealth while he is gone.
        4. His expectations of each one of us are based on our individual abilities.
        5. The lesson is simple: use the blessings Jesus gave you to serve his purposes.
        6. Do not be afraid to use what Jesus entrusted to you.
        7. In fact, the worst thing you can do is to do nothing because you are afraid.
        8. The parable declares that each of us is accountable to Jesus.
          1. It also declares that the boundaries of our accountability are determined by Jesus on the basis of our ability.
        9. There are two things that Jesus does not expect of those who serve him.
          1. He does not expect us to serve him in ways that are beyond our ability.
          2. He does not expect us to be afraid to use what he has entrusted to us; he does not want back exactly what he entrusted to us.
        10. There is one thing the Lord does expect of his slaves: whatever blessings Jesus places in your life, use them for good, multiply good.
        11. In Jesus' words of Matthew 5:16, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

I hope this week that you had a heightened sense and awareness of your blessings. As you think about the incredible ways that you are blessed, as you think about your need to be grateful to Jesus and to God, would you ask yourself this question: "How should I thank God?" Learn your answer from God's direction to Abraham: "You are blessed to help achieve my eternal purposes. You are blessed to be a blessing." Use every blessing that God has given you to help achieve His purposes. Never forget that you are blessed to be a blessing.

We are incredibly blessed in America. Don't feel guilty. Feel responsible. Be a blessing with what God has blessed you with.
God's greatest blessing is the forgiveness available in Jesus Christ. Have you been baptized into Jesus because of your faith and commitment to Jesus? We invite you to Jesus Christ.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 30 November 1997

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