Years ago as Joyce and I served with a mission group, the whole group had serious problems with a particular government official. Though this official knew none of us personally, he just did not like us individually or as a group.

The fact that he disliked us caused real problems. The government's system was pyramid style. In order to comply with any government requirement, we had to contact a specific sequence of offices and officials. The government imposed many requirements on every foreign group. And point A in the process, government office # 1 was this man.

I wanted to try to build a better relationship between our mission group and this official. The congregation providing our support and oversight had many people who were experienced in missions. I asked them to help me find an appropriate gift that would not be looked upon as a bribe, but be seen as a honor.

proof set example It was suggested that I give such officials a set of American proof coins. Proof coins were 100% silver, and were the first coins made with a die. They are truly collectors items. Even in the United States, those coins have special value. In a third world country, I suspect only a local banker would be able to determine their value.

At my first opportunity on my second tour, I presented this official with a set of the coins. His eyes lit up, and he asked me to explain what each coin was worth. He had no idea what American coins were worth, and he certainly had no idea of how much proof coins were worth.

Because I was caught up in his eagerness, I forgot what he did not know. Instead of telling him that only a banker could tell him the worth of the set, I began to explain the street value of each coin. Instantly, his eagerness changed to contempt. He tossed the coins on his desk and informed me that he would take them home for his children to play with--which was intended as an insult to me.

I wanted to honor the man. I wanted to say thank you for your past help. I made considerable effort to find him a gift. But my "thank you" quickly became an insult.

  1. Saying, "Thank you!" in a meaningful, accepted way is not simple.
    1. "Thanks" says many things, and the more meaningful the gesture and the more important the person, the more "thank you" says.
      1. It says, "I noticed what you did."
      2. It says, "I appreciated what you did."
      3. Its says, "I honor you for what you did."
    2. It is especially hard to say, "Thank you!" to two kinds of people.
      1. It is hard to say, "Thank you!" to someone you love dearly.
      2. It is also hard to say, "Thank you!" to someone you do not know well.
      3. One of the most embarrassing memories in each of our lives is a memory of trying to say, "Thank you!" to someone and failing.
      4. It still distresses me to think about my act of honor becoming an insult when I visited that government official.

  2. How do you say, "Thank you!" to God?
    1. Telling God "Thank you!" is a very difficult problem!
      1. Everything you or I give God first came to us through God.
      2. God's worthiness goes far beyond any possession you or I have.
      3. Any sacrifice we make for God, He has made bigger sacrifices for us.
    2. There is only one thing in our power to give God that has great value and meaning to God.
      1. The only valuable thing we control that we can give to God is our heart.
      2. God gave us our heart; it is ours; we love what we choose to love.
      3. God finds it deeply meaningful if we of our own choice freely give Him our hearts.
      4. If I give God my heart, I give God myself.
    3. When I consider people who gave their hearts, I think of several people. I challenge you to consider three of them.
      1. I think of Job.
        1. God knew Job served Him because Job's heart belonged to God, and God allowed Satan to take every blessing from Job for that reason.
        2. Job lost his wealth, his children, and his health.
        3. Job did not understand what was happening to him, and he thought that everything that happened to him was most unjust.
        4. But of everything Job lost, he never lost his God.
        5. In his fourth answer to his accusers in Job 13:15, Job made this statement:
          "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him."
          1. Job said he would argue before God about what happened.
          2. But he would not desert God even if God killed him.
          3. Job's heart belonged to God.
      2. The second person I think of is King David.
        1. In 2 Samuel 15 David's own son, Absalom, made a serious attempt to steal David's throne and the nation of Israel--from his own father!
        2. The attempt was so serious David had to flee Jerusalem to save his life. The situation was dangerous and bad!
        3. In the process of running for his life, David wrote these words:
          Psalm 3:1-3 O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, "There is no deliverance for him in God." But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
        4. David's heart belonged to God, and nothing Absalom did changed that.
      3. The third person I think of is Mary, Jesus' mother.
        1. An angel appeared to her while she was an engaged but unmarried virgin, and just that appearance and greeting shook Mary up.
        2. The angel explained she would have a son, and Mary said that was impossible because she was a virgin.
        3. The angel explained how it would happen, and Mary accepted one of the most difficult, heart breaking responsibilities God ever gave anyone.
        4. She accepted it with these words in Luke 1:38: "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word."
        5. Mary's heart belonged to God.
    4. If God talked in heaven this morning about the people on earth whose hearts belonged to Him, would you be part of His conversation?

      [Congregation to sing two songs now:
      #781Thank You Lord
      #474Thank You Lord]

  3. If I asked for what blessings from God are you the most thankful, what would you say?
    1. If you were asked that question right now, what would you say?
      1. Would you first mention a number of physical blessings?
        1. The people who touch your life in positive ways?
        2. The possessions that you treasure the most?
        3. The "taken for granted" physical blessings--home, food, water, jobs, health, etc.
      2. Would you first mention the blessings no one but God can give?
        1. Salvation
        2. Forgiveness
        3. Mercy
        4. Grace
        5. Purity
        6. Holiness
    2. If you were asked that question after you died, what would you mention first?
      1. I doubt any of us would mention anything physical, because the moment we die everything physical becomes history.
      2. The moment we see God, we will be overwhelmed by the blessings only He can give:
        1. Salvation
        2. Forgiveness
        3. Mercy
        4. Grace
        5. Purity
        6. Holiness

  4. There are some things I yearn to see happen when we worship.
    1. I yearn for worship that invites God here, makes God delighted to be here, makes God glad we wanted Him here as we worshipped.
      1. I want no one to be here and fail to sense the presence of God.
        1. "God was there in a truly special sense today--those people invited Him, and He came!"
        2. "We wanted God to be here," or, "They wanted God to be there."
      2. I want our children and our families to be impressed with the fact that we were in God's presence on purpose to worship God.
      3. I want every visitor to be impressed with the fact that "those people are not into just 'doing church'; they are opening their hearts to God."
      4. "Those people really belong to God; they are serious about giving God their hearts."
    2. Is that what you feel when you worship? Is that what visitors observe?

"Now, David, just one minute! Enough is enough! What does our coming to church have ... to ... do ..." Go ahead. Finish the statement. What does our coming to church have to do with God? What do our prayers have to do with God? What do our songs have to do with God? What does communion have to do with God? What does our giving have to do with God? What does the sermon have to do with God? Is it all just a matter of going through the motions and fulfilling obligations? Is that all it is? Or does it have anything to do with God?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 25 November 2001

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