We live in the wealthiest nation that has ever existed. Our poorest people live better than the richest of only a century past. While we often pray for God to bless us, we really have little concept of just how good we have it. We do not recognize it, but we do not suffer from too little - but from too much. In this sermon we'll learn 5 ways we suffer from too much and then the one exception where we cannot have enough.
Every week I publish my sermon notes so that you may read them for yourselves. For my parishioners, this could be a good review from the weekend before. And it gives you a chance to see what I intended to say! For other pastors and ministers, feel free to borrow and use any of this material. I'd love for God to be glorified by you incorporating these notes into your own worship.
Summer Singles Part 9: "When Too Much Is Not Enough" 07.29.12
Listen to this week's CR Sermon & Podcast (fast forward to 1:03:25 to listen to sermon):
- We live in a throw away society. The avg. amount of waste per person in America = 4.5 pounds PER DAY! Each year, Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. Every year Americans use app. 1 billion shopping bags. The bags alone create 300,000 tons of landfill waste. We have too much of even small stuff - each year throw away 38,000 miles of ribbon - enough to tie a bow around Earth.
- We have too much food. (1) We throw away 209- 253 pounds of food per person per year, enough to feed us for 2 months. http://bit.ly/iB8wbh (2) 40% of the food we create we throw away. = 1400 calories per day per person tossed out or 150 trillion calories/yr. http://bit.ly/iZtaSx (3) We eat too much. According to the Center for Disease Control 35.7% of American adults are not just overweight, but obese! http://1.usa.gov/NTBGIm
- We have unused churches. (1) We close 3500 - 4,000 churches for good every year in America. http://bit.ly/NmU6Rr yet (2) only 18% of Americans frequently attend church. http://bit.ly/HfwQSN (3) This is not a matter of financial poverty, but spiritual. The #1 country in the world of churches per person? Jamaica, one of the poorest countries on Earth. http://anse.rs/Sjw0uj
Single Idea Today: With God __TOO MUCH__ is not enough!
Our faith suffers not because we have too little, but because we have too much. We are going to learn a lesson today from the life of Gideon, whose army of 32,000 was too many for God to deliver from enemies.
The Lord said to Gideon, “The troops with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand.” Judges 7:2a NRSV
This “too much” goes completely against our American culture and our natural inclinations. We want to say that we can never have too much. The more the better! There are times when God says to us - “Cut back. Live on less. Trust more on me. Trust less in you.”
Gideon Transition. Story of Gideon can help us to understand our focus on TOO MUCH of everything else and TOO LITTLE of God. From Gideon’s story we learn 5 things about TOO MUCH.
“Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” Judges 6:13a ESV
We equate our good fortunes - or lack thereof - to God’s blessings, even to the presence of God being with us. Gideon is called “mighty man of valor!” (v. 12) That’s how the angel of the LORD sees him - for who he really is! But Gideon doesn’t see himself that way. He is threshing grain in a winepress - smallness of crop, & hiding from Midianites - first used camels to swoop in from a hundred miles away. Pic this: mighty warrior, small farming, small crop! Sadly, without God’s view of me, I’ll place a false ceiling on what I do!
“And where are all [God’s] wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us...?” Judges 6:13b ESV
Our faith in God and in his power can never be anyone else’s faith but our own. Gideon had heard all the great stories about Moses and God delivering them from Egypt, even parting the Red Sea. But after a while these great stories of God’s deliverance become just that - only stories. We cannot live on what God has accomplished through our families, our churches, our histories. God is always about the right nows of our lives. He doesn’t want to be the God of our ancestors. He wants to be our God, our Lord - personal & real.
“Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Judges 6:15b ESV
The angel tells Gideon not only that he is a mighty man of valor, but also that in his might he will actually save Israel. Angel answers #2: “You want to see God working. Ok - let’s do it through YOU!” We want to watch God work through others. We always think someone else is more naturally gifted, talented, stronger than I am. God doesn’t care about my position or my family’s position. You come form the “least of these?” You are God’s favorite! Don’t ever say “But who am I?” to God. He will just answer with “I AM - that’s WHO!”
“Please let me test just once more with the fleece.” Judges 6:39b ESV
This is the story we most often associate with Gideon - the famous test of the fleece. He wants to determine if the Lord is really with him and if He will really do what He says He will do. So he puts out a fleece and prays that it will become soaked while everything else is dry. Then - the 1st test isn’t enough - he tests once more in the opposite, asking for the fleece to be dry while everything else is wet. Don’t we do the same? - except we use different terminology. We say, ‘if the Lord opens this door... or closes that door!” The LORD has promised He will never leave us or forsake us. We - like Gideon - should never wonder if the LORD will do what He says. His WORD (His promises) is not dependent upon our small tests of faith.
Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many.” Judges 7:3b-4a ESV
Can you imagine what must have been going through Gideon’s mind? Even the thought of going up against the Midianites with 32,000 was frightening. But at least he had 32,000! God knows what it is we really need - even if we don’t. 70% were too scared and had no faith and would have just created more problems. Still that was too many. So He takes the 10,000 down to the water where He separates them by who laps by hand and who laps face first. The ratio is 300 to 9,700. Any guess at to which group Gideon was hoping for? The truth is that what I accomplish that really matters for eternity is not about my strength or that of the numbers of people I can put on my side. Never be comforted by being part of the majority! Sometimes the majority is wrong and the minority is right! Remember always that you want your side to be God’s side.
I can’t depend TOO MUCH on ___GOD’S PRESENCE ___ in my life.
The only thing that mattered was the first thing the angel of the Lord said to Gideon. It was the same thing the angel said to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
“The Lord is with you.” Judges 6:12 / Luke 1:28 ESV
In both cases this simple promise also came with an amazing deed the LORD would accomplish. In Gideon’s case to rout the enemy. In Mary’s case, to bring the Savior of the world. In both cases - Gideon and Mary depended entirely on God in their obedience. But note the difference in how they arrived there.
With Gideon, he first had to recount all the reasons why this couldn’t be possible: his circumstances, his country’s recent lack of success, his own low family position, testing God with the fleeces, then ultimately trusting in the 32,000 armed soldiers. God had to wipe away all the TOO MUCHes in Gideon’s life BEFORE Gideon was ready for God’s power.
With Mary? Armed with nothing but faith, she replies to the angel:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38 ESV
Conclusion: Gideon’s story is our story today. We have TOO LITTLE of God because we count entirely on the TOO MUCH of everything else. The LORD God - five different times in His Word - promises to us:
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6,8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Kings 8:57; Hebrews 13:5
The last time, Hebrews 13:5, the NT writer puts the contrast in direct comparison between our TOO MUCH of everything else and God:
“Don’t be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 MSG
What will be your response to the God who never leaves and never forsakes? Will you be obsessed with TOO MUCH of everything else or focus on all you need, what you always have, the never TOO MUCH of God? Will you change your prayer to God from, “Bless me with more,” to “Let it be to me according to your word.”