Editor’s note: Richard Grimes is taking a break this week to care for his 101-year-old father, David, who is ill. He asks for prayers.
This essay is taken from “Sermons for Busy Pastors.”
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (KJV)
A man who was a nature lover and enjoyed looking at the trees and flowers along the road. Just across the street from him a neighbor had a beautiful tree in a yard surrounded by a fence and protected by a barking dog. Its branches went spiraling upward to the sky and lifted its limbs to received the birds that were building their nests. Some days he would just stand on the corner and look at that beautiful tree.
As he was coming home one day he noticed that there was something wrong. The gate to the neighbor’s yard was opened and the owner had chained the dog to a post. There in the yard some men from the city were cutting down his beautiful tree. The man was really concerned and walked over to the men. He recognized one of the workers and said to him, “Why are you cutting down that beautiful tree? Is something wrong? If you had to cut one down why not that ugly one across the fence.” Right on the other side of that fence was a scraggly tree with no real beauty to it. It might have been doing a favor to cut that one down but not the beautiful one. There must be something wrong!
The worker said to him, “Come over here.” So he went into the yard following the man. Already parts of the lovely tree had been cut and now they were cutting through the heart of it. As they got to the base of the tree the man told him to look inside. There was something wrong. The whole heart of the tree was infested with termites. The outside still looked fine; the bark was intact; the limbs were majestic; the leaves were green. But the core was providing food and shelter for an infestation of termites. The termites had gone right through the fence; the gate had been no obstacle, and the dog was unnoticed. Now because the core of the tree was missing, the tree endangered those living in the house and anyone walking on the sidewalk. Yes, there was something wrong. So the workers were called in to cut it down.
There is a lesson here for us as Christians. Despite the protections built around us the enemy can enter and destroy us. When we are unaware and complacent the enemy can cause something to be desperately wrong.
Today I am going to ask every one of us to look inside and see if there is something desperately wrong inside.
There is something wrong:
I. When you fail to remember the blessings of God.
The 103rd Psalm says: Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
He starts out praising God and then he names them one after another. The other day I was talking with a friend and he was saying that we should be praising God continually because of all he has given. And I agree. We should praise God for life – and every one of us here today has that. And even if you don’t have life – praise God that you are on your way to heaven. Thank God for your family, for your church, for your salvation – in everything give thanks to the Lord. Have you been taking God’s blessings for granted? Cultivate an attitude of praise for every good thing that God gives to you.
And I think it right . . . to stir you up by putting you in remembrance. 2 Pet. 1:13
We do not need more blessings so much as we need to appreciate the sweetness of the blessings which we now have. By stirring up our memories, we get new sweetness from lovely music we have heard, good poetry, helpful sermons, expressions of kindness, beautiful scenery, and, of course, best of all—God’s precious Word, which is “sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.”
There is something wrong:
II. When you are serving God because of duty and not love.
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. Col. 1:10
When you are doing something for duty you do the bare minimum – just enough to get by. But to act from love you ask, “How much can I do, and how much can I give?
• One sign that there is something wrong is in our lack of attendance. We are experiencing some spiritual slippage in our church attendance. Everyone knows that when several people miss a service of church that the spirit goes down for everyone and there is something wrong. Right now it’s a good thing we don’t vote often because we would not have a quorum.
• Lack of Prayer shows there is something wrong.
• Lack of Giving shows there is something wrong.
God says, “Work: for I am with you” (Hag. 2: 4).
Jesus says, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”
There is something wrong:
III. When you start living without asking for God’s will.
Lo, I come ... I delight to do thy will, O my God. Ps. 40: 7.8a
Most Christians have experienced a time when they wanted desperately to know and do God’s will. Now we face the preoccupation of our lives. Do we want more than anything else to please God. Many are lax in finding God’s direction for their lives.
Firemen understand that you will know who they, are, that you have the right number and that you do not wish to waste your time or theirs when you call for help. They believe that you are thoroughly familiar with the fact that they are ready and willing to risk their lives, if need be, day or night, summer or winter, rain or snows to help folks in time of need. Therefore they engage in no discussion, but immediately answer the call.
God calls each of us during a time when the world is in great need. How do Christians respond? Our “yes,” especially today, must truly express our readiness, our willingness, our desire for immediate action.
Put It on the Altar...
A businessman, well-dressed, distinguished, with graying temples, came to the altar to rededicate his life to Christ. There is something wrong, he shared. “I love my business more than anything else in the world. I don’t need it. I could retire and have all the money I could ever spend. I do not need it, but I simply love to make money! But today I put my business on the altar. Christ and souls will be first and business will be secondary and incidental to pleasing God. I make my vow today!”
A Christian wife prayed faithfully for her unsaved husband. There was something wrong with him. With broken heart she cried to God. At long last the husband was saved. Then he became more and more concerned about soul winning. At last he gave up a profitable business and laid his life on the altar to preach the Gospel. Was the wife pleased? No, she was not! She wanted her husband to be saved. She wanted him to quit his drunkenness. She wanted him to quit following after lewd women. She wanted him to bring home his paycheck. But she did not want him to be a preacher. She did not want him to be counted a fanatic and a fool. She did not want poverty for Jesus’ sake.
Many people would be glad to have you be a Christian and be moral and honest, but they will not want you to be an out-and-out Christian, a “fanatical” Christian, a radical Christian.
There was something wrong with her. But what the world does not want you to be, Jesus Christ demands that you be. “Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).