Teens are a wonderful gift! In a family that works together, teenagers can make a wonderful contribution. Teens are a wonderful family labor force, right teens? Parents do not know how to appreciate what teens do for the family until they leave home.

The first year both my sons moved away and were not longer a part of our "family work force," I mowed over an acre lot by myself with a push mower. I almost killed myself! All that summer, every available evening, I mowed part of my yard. I never finished! By the time I cut the last section, it was time to start again. It did not take long for me to determine the quickest way to mow my yard. Soon after I figured out the quickest way to mow, the "quickest way" became the "only way." Not long after that, the "only way" became the "correct way" to mow my yard.

The next summer I bought a riding mower. Of course, I still mowed my yard the "correct way." That summer Kevin visited and offered to mow the yard. I quickly accepted his offer and proceeded to tell him the "correct way" to mow my yard. He listened, smiled his Kevin smile, and proceeded to cut the yard his way.

No matter what I decided, there were many ways to approach cutting my grass.

  1. People are very strange beings.
    1. We tend to be arrogant, near-sighted, and over-confident.
      1. If you had a nickel for every argument that will occur in America this week concerning the best way to do something, you would be a rich person.
      2. If you had a nickel for every argument that will occur in the families of this congregation this week concerning the best way to do something, you would have some "serious spending money."
    2. Most of our disagreements are not about "whats" but about "hows."
      1. We agree on many of the "whats."
        1. Most husbands and wives agree on many of the "whats;" the majority of their disagreements are on the "hows."
        2. Most of the people you work with on your job agree on the "whats;" it is the "hows" that produce the biggest head knocking sessions.
        3. This is my experience in the church: much of the time we agree on the "whats;" it is the "hows" that give us fits.
      2. Consider one example.
        1. Financially a husband and wife basically agree on the "whats."
        2. They have a specific income that produces a specific amount of money.
          1. The "what" primarily involves living on that income.
          2. The "what" involves paying the bills, providing the necessities, caring for the unexpected, and saving something for the future.
        3. But, "how" do they do that?
          1. Most of the conflicts center on "how." Why?
          2. "My way is the way to do it; my way makes sense; and all of us understand we need to use the sensible approach."
      3. Let me describe what happens.
        1. Convenience becomes habit.
        2. Habit becomes routine.
        3. Routine becomes necessity.
        4. Necessity becomes unbreakable law.

  2. We humans are so confident that "we know the best way to do things" that we even feel comfortable telling God how He should do things.
    1. "I belong to God."
      1. "I know what God thinks."
      2. "I know what God values."
      3. "I know God's ways."
      4. "I know how God would have things done."
      5. "Listen to me. When you listen to me you can count on the fact that I know God's 'what' and 'how.'"
    2. Centuries ago Isaiah wrote Judah and declared,
      Isaiah 55:8,9 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts."
      1. In context, Isaiah encouraged exiled Jews to place their trust in the fact that the God who exiled them would forgive them.
      2. That is not the way we humans do things.
      3. We do not force people to endure the consequences of their misbehavior, and then offer them forgiveness and restoration.
      4. We people have a very poor understanding of grace.
        1. Grace is not typically a part of our existence.
        2. Grace is very much a part of God's existence.

  3. Jesus stressed that God does not do things the way people do them.
    1. In Matthew 20:1-16 Jesus taught a parable about some laborers.
      1. The time for the grape harvest arrived, and a vineyard owner needed help.
        1. People who worked as day laborers [much as today in some cities] came to a location in the city and waited for someone to offer them a job for the day.
        2. People who needed to hire help knew where to go to hire laborers.
      2. The vineyard owner went early in the morning to hire some laborers.
        1. He found men needing a job and agreed to pay them a day's wage.
        2. He did not have enough help, so he went back to the same place at 9 a.m. and hired the men he found. He said that he would pay them what was right if they would work for him.
        3. He went again at noon and at 3 p.m. and did the same thing.
      3. At 5 p.m. the vineyard owner did the unthinkable--with only an hour left to work, he went to hire laborers.
        1. When he found unhired men, he asked, "Why have you been standing around all day?"
        2. They replied, "No one hired us."
        3. He said, "Go work in my vineyard."
      4. When the day was over, he told his foreman to pay all the workers.
        1. The foreman started by paying the last group who worked very briefly.
        2. He paid them a full day's wage, the same amount promised to the men hired at 6 a.m.
        3. Those who worked all day were elated--surely they would be paid more than a day's wages.
        4. But, when they were paid, they received the same amount--a day's wage.
      5. The people who worked all day gripped: "You paid us no more than you paid those men who worked for an hour! That is not right!"
        1. The owner replied, "I did nothing wrong to you. I paid you what I promised. If I choose to pay those who worked an hour a full day's wage, that is my business."
        2. "I can do what I want to do with what I own."
        3. "You criticize me because I am generous?"
      6. God is not bound by human thoughts and standards; the generous, merciful God does things His way.
    2. Jesus told another parable in Luke 13:24-30.
      1. A person in his Jewish audience asked if just a few were going to be saved.
      2. He urged his Jewish audience to make great effort to enter the narrow door before opportunity passed.
      3. Once the head of the house shut the door, those outside could not enter.
        1. Those outside would beg the owner to open the door and let them in: "We knew you well. We had meals with you. We listened to you teach."
        2. But the owner would not open the door: "I do not know you. If you were not up to evil you would have come in when the door was open. Just leave and go away. Take your evil elsewhere."
      4. The Jews who could not get in had double grief.
        1. They saw their ancestors who began Israel inside, in God's kingdom, and there was no way they could join them.
        2. They also saw people who were not Israelites inside with their ancestors.
      5. Again, God is not bound by our thoughts and ways; He does things His way.
    3. This is just as difficult to accept today as it was in first century Israel.
      1. Paul discussed this very struggle in Romans 9.
      2. First century Jews had a difficult time accepting the fact that God loved and saved people who were not a part of Judaism.
        1. Their complaint: "That is not fair! It is not right! We have been Your chosen people for over 1400 years. We are Israel!"
        2. Listen to Paul:
          Romans 9:10-12 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls it was said to her, "The older will serve the younger."
      3. Paul told Israelites God always has functioned in this manner.
      4. If they went all the way back to the Israel's beginnings, to Jacob and Esau, God chose to work through the younger Jacob before those twins were born.
      5. That is just not the way people did things! You worked through the oldest son, not the youngest!
      6. That was not the way people did things, but God was not bound by the decisions and behavior of people.

  4. God is sovereign. What does that mean?
    1. God does things His way, as He chooses.
      1. He does not abuse His power, or people, and He keeps His promises.
      2. Those who trust Him know He is trustworthy; He will keep His word.
      3. People cannot obligate God; people must trust God.
        1. We do not trust God because "He does it our way."
        2. We trust God because the trustworthy God keeps His promises.
    2. We humans do not like to be reduced to trusting God.
      1. Depending on trust makes us very uncomfortable.
        1. Humans function on documents, signatures, guarantees, and contracts.
        2. We obligate people to keep their promises because humans deceive and break promises.
        3. If we have a document, a signature, a guarantee, or a contract and you fail to do what you are obligated to do, we will take you to court and make you keep your promise.
      2. We humans function much better on obligations than on trust.
      3. But we cannot obligate God; we must trust God.
        1. Must we obey God? Yes.
        2. Does human obedience obligate God? No.
        3. Does human obedience place us in a bargaining position with God? No.
      4. Christians who trust God do not serve God in an attempt to obligate God.
        1. Christians serve God because they trust Him.
        2. Christians serve God because they trust His love for them.
    3. "Why should I trust God, especially since He does not do things the way I would?"
      1. Why? Because God sent us Jesus. It took God a long time to keep His promise, but He kept it.
      2. Why? Because God let Jesus die for our sins. It took God enormous patience to keep His promise, but He kept it.
      3. Why? Because God raised Jesus from the dead to be Lord and Christ. It required a lot of effort from God to keep His promise, but He kept it.

We Christians make a spiritual mess out of the church. In the church, we have spent about a hundred years teaching Christians to trust themselves instead of trusting God. We taught ourselves to trust our logic, our reasoning, our conclusions, our practices, our name, and our ways. Too much of that has little to do with trusting God. It has a lot to do with our attempt to obligate God. Is your confidence for salvation in your trust of God or in trusting yourself because your confidence is in what you do?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 2 September 2001

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