Would you be genuinely honest with yourself? How many times have you said within your own mind and heart, "What is he really up to?" How many times have you said within yourself, "What does she really want?"

This is an extremely skeptical world. We live in extremely skeptical times. We are suspicious of everything. We tend to think that everything is guided by ulterior motives. We tend to believe that true openness and genuine honesty do not exist.

Our skepticism profoundly impacts the way we look at God. We do not place as much emphasis on what God said as on what God did not say. We are devoted to determining what God actually wants. We often attempt to determine God's true desires by "reading between the lines."

I sincerely doubt that any of us are capable of imagining the enormous frustration that we inflict on God.

  1. Have you ever considered how easily God could have "given up" on humanity?
    1. Have you ever considered how easily God could have decided that one of the worst mistakes He ever made was creating humans with a free will?
      1. If God were human, He would have cut His losses a long time ago.
      2. To me the greatest evidences that God is not human are seen in His patience, His forgiveness, and His mercy.
      3. No human, not even the best of the best, can endure as much abuse, misrepresentation, and neglect as does God, and remain patient, forgiving, and merciful.
    2. God could have "given up" when Adam and Eve were deceived by evil and perverted His creation.
      Genesis 1:31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. Satan in the form of a serpent told Eve that God would not kill her if she disobeyed God.
      2. Eve considered the benefits of disobedience.
        1. She defied God.
        2. She encouraged Adam to defy God.
      3. Genesis 3:8-21 states that their surrender to temptation literally changed everything.
        1. It perverted relationship with God.
        2. If perverted our sexual natures.
        3. It perverted our role on earth.
        4. It perverted the husband and wife relationship.
        5. Nothing is as it was when God brought His good creation into existence.
      4. And that is just the beginning. God could have "given up" right then.

  2. The Bible reveals situation after situation when God could have "given up."
    1. God could have "given up" when the world degenerated into total wickedness.
      1. Genesis 6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      2. Oh, yes, God could have "given up."
    2. God could have "given up" when the adult Israelites that he rescued from Egypt returned to idolatry.
      1. After the ten catastrophes God brought on Egypt, after allowing Israel to cross the Red Sea, after providing Israel food and water in the wilderness, after speaking to Israel in a human voice when He gave the ten commandments at Mount Sinai, they turned back to idolatry.
      2. Moses was on a mountain receiving instructions from God for Israel.
        1. Israel grew very impatient while they waited for Moses to return.
        2. They gave Aaron, Moses' brother, their gold ear rings for the purpose of making them an idol.
        3. He melted the gold, sculpted a calf, presented the calf to Israel, and the people accepted the idol with these words:
          Exodus 32:4 They said, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt." (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      3. Oh, yes, God could have "given up."
    3. God could have "given up" generations later when He gave Israel Canaan for their own country, and Israel became so ungodly they were gross.
      1. The book of Judges ends with two examples of how horrible Israel was.
        1. Judges 17 and 18 tell about a Levite who made himself a priest by worshipping idols and became the spiritual leader of the tribe of Dan.
        2. Judges 19 and 20 tell about a Levite on a journey who spent the night in Gibeah with his wife.
          1. A neighborly old man invited him into his home.
          2. That night some men of the city demanded that the host give them the visitor so that they could homosexually assault him.
          3. The host gave them his virgin daughter and the man's wife, and they raped the man's wife to death.
        3. Why were people so ungodly, so gross? In places like Judges 21:25 the writer gave this explanation:
          Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      2. Oh, yes, God could have "given up."

  3. There were so many times when God could have "given up!"
    1. God could have "given up" when the nation of Israel divided into two kingdoms and one of those kingdoms turned totally to idolatry until they no longer existed.
    2. God could have "given up" when Israel rejected and killed His Son.
    3. God could have "given up" when so many of the early churches miserably failed to be the people God wanted them to be.
      1. The church at Rome struggled as Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians completely misunderstood God's purposes in salvation.
      2. The church in Corinth had the worst kinds of division and ungodliness.
      3. The Galatian churches did not understand what God did in Jesus' death and resurrection.
      4. The church at Ephesus did not understand that godliness was to be reflected in Christian relationships.
      5. The church at Philippi had major problems respecting each other.
      6. The church at Colossae created their own brand of Christianity by combining parts of Christianity with parts of popular pagan teachings.
      7. The church at Thessalonica thought that Jesus was coming back so soon that they could quit their jobs and do nothing but sit around and meddle in other peoples lives.
      8. The church at Pergamum adopted idolatrous practices.
      9. The church at Thyatira had an influential member who taught Christians that it was all right to commit adultery.
      10. The church at Sardis was dead.
      11. The church at Laodicea made God sick to His stomach.
    4. Oh, yes, God could have "given up."

  4. And then there is today's Christianity and congregations.
    1. Would you rank Christianity and congregations of today as a plus or a minus?
      1. Do you think that God looks at Christians today and says, "It was frustrating, but it was worth it!"
        1. I am afraid that we American Christians are terribly arrogant before God and do not even realize it.
        2. We tend to think that God sees the church in America as being what He always wanted.
      2. What is the probability that God looks at us and says, "They are exactly what I wanted!"
        1. "They place the emphasis exactly where I wanted it."
        2. "They are exactly the kind of people I wanted."
        3. "They have the kind of marriages I wanted."
        4. "They have the kind of homes I wanted."
        5. "They respect and care about people just like I wanted."
        6. "They are forgiving, merciful, and compassionate just like my Son was."
    2. Does God watch us "reading between the lines" as we try to decide what God really wants.
      1. We cannot listen to the emphasis in the New Testament and fail to see the enormous stress placed on our attitudes, our hearts, our treatment of others, our morality, our ethical behavior, and our relationships.
      2. You see this emphasis in the teachings and the actions of our Lord Jesus.
      3. You see this emphasis in the letters written to the churches.
      4. Love your wife; love your husband; love your children; love fellow believers; love your neighbors; love people who are strangers; even love your enemies.
      5. Help people; do good; share; treat other people like you want to be treated.
      6. Be a merciful people in an evil world because your God is committed to showing mercy to an evil world.
      7. Show compassion; show kindness; be patient and forbearing; forgive; encourage the strong; help the weak; never discourage those who seek God.
    3. And we say, "Yes, I have read all that in the New Testament. But this is the real question: what does God really want?"
      1. And God replies, "If I wanted tabernacles or temples, I know how to command people to build."
      2. "If I wanted rules and regulations, I know how to give people a law code."
      3. "If I wanted rituals, I know how to command people to follow details."
      4. "I know how to tell people to do what I want them to do."
      5. Do you believe that God knows how to tell us to do what He wants us to do?

  5. I would like to share two observations.
    1. Observation one: so much of what we emphasize when we do "church things" is about us, our likes, our desires, our preferences, and our personal priorities, and not much about God.
    2. Observation two: I often fear that in our determined effort to restore the New Testament church that we have little desire to restore New Testament Christianity.

Next Saturday and Sunday Bill Smith and Alan Robertson will spend quality time with us just to give us information on the small group ministry. We need you to be a part of that weekend experience. We need you here Saturday and Sunday. Why? We want to understand everything possible about encouraging and helping people. Why? Because God loves people. That is the only reason that God never "gives up."

[Prayer: God, thank You for not giving up on us. Help us understand that You do not want us to give up on others.]

The only reason God has not "given up" on you and on me is because God loves us. What do we do to encourage God not to "give up" on us?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 17 October 1999

This sermon is also available in French.

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