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Growing a Generous Spirit
Scripture: Matthew 15:29-39; 20:29-34
Track 9 of 12 in the Being with Him means Looking Like Him series
Running time: 28 minutes, 02 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, May 2, 2004
"Growing a Generous Spirit"
"Being With Him Means Looking Like Him"
(Matthew 15: 29-39; 20:29-34)
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

There were several of us who gathered here Wednesday night and did some, actually, great fun things that we should have been doing probably for a long time. So, I'm about to tell all of those of you who became members here prior to January 1st (I'm sorry) re up and get a chance to come to this new members thing cause it was just a delightfully fun evening.

Our elders, whom we mostly think of as, you know, these dignified gentlemen, who make these important decisions about where we're headed, were dressed up in their Italian outfits with their little cute mustaches and they were playing this wonderful game for all of us. It was just a delightful experience watching them in a little different light and seeing them serve the tables of many of our new members and some folks from our assimilation team making them feel welcome and introducing them a bit to Madison Park. It was just a new look at things which, I thought, was very, very helpful. Just a delightful night. I'm sorry that the rest of you couldn't have been there. I may even feel bad that I made you feel bad for not being there. If I did, I'm sorry. It was just fun and it gave us a new perspective on some things that I think was probably extremely helpful.

It was one of those nights when you came away just encouraged, edified, built up in your faith, which is, in fact, one of the things that we would like to see happen around here. You know that one of the things that we're aiming at is to become a community of people who look a lot like Jesus. And when I look at Jesus, one of the things that I note about Him is how his relationships with people were always so utterly encouraging. It seemed like everything that He did was done in a way that it built other people up. He strengthened them, made them better. They always came away from the relationship stronger than when they went in. Even when it was a confrontational kind of experience, rather than necessarily a fun experience, they always came away and felt like better. Certainly the early church picked up on that language. Let me just read for you a couple of texts before we come to our text in Matthew.

When Paul is reflecting on his relationship with believers and encouraging other people in their relationship, for example, he says this. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. The mutual building up. Just two or three verses later over in Chapter 15 he says, Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. One of those texts that has lodged itself in my thinking and we'll come back to in just a little bit. Paul wrote to the Ephesians over in Chapter 4 in this very practical chapter after he's talked to us about being One in Christ. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

There is this general trend in Scripture that reminds us that our responsibility to each other is to build each other up, to edify one another. To make each other better, stronger, to build the faith of others. That's what the church . . . .that's what this congregation is about. Finding ways that we can enter into relationships wherein those relationships we can encourage each other. That obviously happens in the Bridge communities where people get together in smaller groups. They study Scripture. They may have meals together. They share fellowship together. It's an opportunity for people to have a chance to get to know one another and to encourage each other in their faith. We hope it happens in our Adult Discipleship classes on Sunday mornings where people come together around Scripture. They fellowship over coffee. They have an opportunity to meet each other, talk to each other, encourage each other. We're assuming it happens in Women's Bible Study when they gather or at their retreats. We hear reports of it coming out of groups like our choir where people find edification with one another. Where they build each other up. Where they serve one another in ways that people are allowed to enter into relationships that encourage. It happens in our ministry teams as they gather and do whatever particular ministry it happens to be. We're hoping that coming out of this capital campaign, when we talk about moving forward and growing deeper, we hope that one of the things that happens is that we're allowed to use this to build each other up. To help each other become stronger in our relationships with each other. That's why all of the small group meetings. That's why these opportunities to meet in people's homes. It's why we're going to gather all in one place on the 16th over at Baldwin School, so we have a chance to encourage one another and to build one another up, strengthen one another in our faith.

Well that bottom line is what this message is about, in case you hadn't figured that out. One of the marks of being a disciple is that we have these edifying relationships and we simply look at Jesus as an opportunity to learn how to develop relationships which build other people up.

The text we're looking at in Matthew is Chapter 26 and we're really using it more as an illustration than anything else of one of those times when Jesus engages somebody in a life situation and they come out of that having been strengthened, built up, edified.

Matthew 26:6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."

Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."

Notice this first principle that comes out of this story. We see the best in people while the disciples can only see the wasted perfume, Jesus sees some value in this woman's performance. He sees the best when they see the worst. One of the most important elements of becoming a person who edifies other people is the ability to see in those people what other people cannot see. To have that optimistic look in the lives of people.

I ran across this rather interesting little fiction this week. This is a report from a local management consultant team back to Jesus as He gathers his twelve disciples.

This is

To: Jesus, Son of Joseph

From: Jordan Management Consultants Co.

Dear Sir:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

As part of our service, we make some general comments for your guidance, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation, and comes without any additional fee.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew had been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.

Well, so much for the consultant. It really is, often, just simply a matter of perspective and what you see in people. You know the story well. Jesus says, "Who do people say that I am?" Peter says, "You're the Christ." Jesus says, "I'm going to go to Jerusalem and die." Peter says, "No, you're not." Jesus says to Peter, "Get behind me Satan." And there are six days of silence and then the very next statement is, six days later, "Jesus took with him . . . .Peter" As if He were able to see something in Peter that nobody else could see.

I don't know if this was true or not. I read it as a true story. They tell me that after years of labor of putting together the first light bulb, they gave it to one of the assistants to carry into the room where it was actually to be tested and he dropped it. So they went back. Spent several more hours putting another one together and guess who Edison handed it to, to carry into the other room? Same assistant! Seeing in people their potential.

I read with fascination the book about Southwest Airlines called "Nuts". At one time Southwest decided they were going to have a business of shipping much like FedEx. I mean, they only run one airplane and they run it to small cities and they thought as many of these little short hops as we do, this would be a great opportunity to capitalize on a need to ship products. They turned one guy loose. He spent thousands of dollars putting this thing into place. It fell flat on its face. Total failure. So guess what they did to the young man. They gave him a raise because he was a entrepreneurial thinker. Now I'm reading through the chapter and I'm thinking I know what's gonna happen to him. Their gonna axe him. No, because he saw the potential in him. One of the things about building people up is the ability to see in people what other people can't see. Can you imagine the difference that could make at your house on those days when your children are about to drive you absolutely nuts? If you could just see them for what they're going to become instead of what they are right at the moment. Wives, wouldn't that make it a lot easier to deal with those husbands that you still haven't got shaped into quite the condition you think they're supposed to be? If you could just see them for what they could become, instead of what they are.

I think about what would happen if we began to see the world through the eyes that saw potential in people rather than looking at someone and saying "they don't have a chance of becoming a Christian", but instead, seeing them differently and wondering how could God reach that person.

I suspect that, that is in many ways what has led the leadership to the place that they are in this campaign, is the sense that they see in this congregation the ability to do some things that sometimes we can't even see ourselves. Because we see people and we see what's best in them.

Well let me go to another text, over in Matthew 15. Matthew 15. One of these simple little statements of Jesus. A story that you're familiar with. Chapter 15:32. We pick it up kind of in the middle of this story. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way."

His disciples answered, "Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?"

How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked.

"Seven," they replied, "and a few small fish."

He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was four thousand, besides women and children. After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.

It's not only that we see the best in people, we seek for the best for people. See, one of the things that is true about Jesus, which we've seen before, is that he never looked at people without seeing them for their immediate need. But you have to understand He didn't always meet their immediate need. He sometimes met a more important need than that, but there was something about Him that he always sought the best for other people. I don't think that's inborn in us. Sorry! I'm a pessimist about humanity.

It comes from watching kids. We live across the street from Central Elementary School in Lincoln and just down the street is the Junior High. We watch kids all the time. One of the events happens every spring is the Central Elementary track meet. It's all the little kids who have their one field day of the year. And so they go out there and they do their best to kind of mark off this cinder track and try to line up these little kids and tell them, you know, in well, try to explain to a, you know, third grader. You start here and you end up down there and don't stop running until you get there. And then there's this herd that all takes off together. What's really strange is to watch what happens with little kids that don't know the rules. Because if somebody is trying to pass on the inside, their not at all averse to sticking their elbow out or stepping over in front of them and kind of shuttling. . . . .they just go back and forth. They don't pay any attention to lanes, they're there to win.

Now contrast that to the Special Olympics. Have you ever seen them? When they're will be six, seven, eight challenged young people line up at the beginning and they'll all take off for all their worth for the other end and one of them falls down and guess what happens? The other seven stop, go back, help the person up and together, arm-in-arm, they run to the end. Because they understand something that the rest of us don't.

This is not about winning. It's about seeking what is best for the other person. Jesus always seemed to have that capability to know what another person needed and to be able to enter into that relationship in a way that encouraged the very best thing to happen for them.

You know sometimes what we need most is for somebody to walk up and put their arm on your shoulder and just tell you you're doing okay. Once in awhile it even helps if they lie and tell you that you're lookin' good today. You just need that, you know. But you know, sometimes you need the opposite don't ya?

One of my students (Greg) walked in my office on Thursday. He's kind of sheepish. He supposed to be writing his Masters thesis and he's not turning much in and he came in to apologize and he said, "you know what I think I really need is, I need a swift kick." And I said, "turn around. Huh! I'm happy to accommodate that. Not a problem!" Because sometimes that's what you need isn't it? Once in awhile you need a hand on the shoulder and sometimes you need a swift kick in the backside.

Jesus seemed to understand that and that's what He's calling the church to understand is that we seek that which is best for people. And sometimes what's best is an encouraging word and a smile. And sometimes what's best is a shake of the finger that reminds us who we're supposed to be as believers.

See, it's the power of relationships to help change people. I think that's the incredible power of our Bridge communities. To put you in a place where you know people well enough and they know you well enough to be able to look you in the eye and say "straighten up" or "address this issue" or "have you ever thought about". I think that's one of the reasons why the campaign is so important. It's not about adding that part of the building out here. It's not about connecting these two buildings. It's not even about a new parking lot or a better roof. It's about being able to sit across tables from one another and encouraging one another to do our best so that we can be our best for Christ. Sometimes that's a "pat on the back" and a thank you for a job well done and sometimes "a come on, get with it". Huh! But we all need it.

Let me go to one other text over here in Matthew, Chapter 11.

Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

I would have thought that the people that day would have been incredibly blessed when they heard those words, "Come to me, and rest" because not only do we see the best in people and seek for the best for people, we speak the best to people. There's something about our words that are incredibly important and Jesus seemed to know just which words to use. On this particular occasion, the word that those people needed to hear was "Come to me" let me help you follow me. You know that's not always His word. I think of another occasion that Matthew doesn't record but Mark does, when the demoniac is healed and says, I want to come to you. Jesus says I want you to "go home" and talk to your family. Sometimes you get the opposite word of what you think you need but you still get the word that you need. You get what's best for you and that's the power of words. Jesus understood that.

There's a particular family that the ritual was he always came home for lunch and his wife just inevitably always had it ready. She would leave a note on the counter telling him what was supposed to happen. One particular day she came home later that afternoon from work and he was incredibly grumpy, in fact, almost to the point of being. . . . . . .nothing that I would ever understand. . . . .how you could ever be that obnoxious. . . . . but to the point of being obnoxiously grumpy and she's trying to figure out what went wrong. Finally, by the time the evening was over, she has engaged him in conversation and she asked him about lunch. What did you have for lunch and he explained that he had some peanut butter and jelly sandwich or something. She said, what about the lunch that I fixed you? He said, I read your note. Lunch is over. No, she said, it said Lunch in oven.

WORDS! And the clear understanding of what they can do. Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only those words that build up and edify. It's the power of speech to say that which people need to hear that helps correct us, to guide us. Sometimes they just come at the right time, you know!

There was a fella who had lost his managerial position and done what so many people who have lost their jobs in those situations have done. He went out and found any job he could. It happened to be a construction job and he was not used to construction work. But it wasn't so much the construction work that bothered him as it was the construction language. It was just an environment that he wasn't used to. In fact, he had made up his mind that on payday, that was it. He was going to collect his paycheck and he was just going to quit cause he just couldn't deal with the harassment. At break time he picked up his check and he opened the check and in the check he found a note from one of the ladies in the office. She happened to be a member of the church where he attended and he didn't realize that she even worked at the same place. All the note said was, "I'm praying for you. I know this has been hard." And so, he kept working. Just a simple word. I noticed and I cared. The power of words when you speak to somebody. Just that simple word that makes a difference. You know you begin to trust people to tell you those kinds of words. You begin to look to certain people who can speak to you in such a way that it just turns things around.

It is what we hope our leaders are always doing. Speaking to us words that matter. Words that make a difference. We've tried to capture that even in our campaign theme moving forward and growing deeper where we hope that what this does is help speak to us what this is about. That it conveys to us that this is not about finances. It's about our own spiritual life. So I'm going to speak a word that I hope is true.

I know that not all of you are excited about what we're doing. You're not sure this is the best choice. This is a word of encouragement to you. Get involved anyway, not at a major level. I don't want you to compromise your value if you have serious reservations, but get involved at some level because what's gonna happen is after that thing is completed and we're looking back at it. You're still gonna sense ownership and if not, you're gonna feel left out. And we don't want that to happen to anybody.

See, we work at developing the kinds of relationships that build each other up. That is our dream, by the way, for this congregation to offer the kinds of things that build other people up. I am so fascinated when I hear these antic dotes of the way things happen around here.

Jim's been teaching Worthwhile Class for I don't know, 812 years or something. I forget. It's a class primarily made up of our older ladies and, quite frankly, because of health issues and other things, the class gets smaller all the time. But those ladies call each other every day to check on each other. They have developed this connection, this relationship that edifies. There are probably thirty or forty of our older people . . . . . . .END OF TAPE

get together and climb in some vans and they travel someplace together and they have this great time where they build each other up and they even let Dale help them drive. I just for the life of me. . . . . . . .oh, that wasn't very encouraging was it? I should retract. . . . .I need to withdraw. . . . .Dale, I'm sorry. I just don't understand why they let you drive. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I. . .you know. . . .'s the power of community to be able to build each other up. To come together in such a way that we see the best, we seek the best, we speak the best, so that we come out of this place stronger than when we came in and frankly, you know, some days we need that don't we? Some days we come in feeling good and the sun is shining and it's a great day. And some days we walk in here and it's heavy for us. What we need to hear is a word from God that makes a difference and what we need is a community of people who will see in us and seek for us and say to us that which ultimately matters.

We're really inviting you to become that kind of a community.

It's our dream when we have a larger worship space, we can come back to two services and know each other better. It's our dream that there will be more community involvement where we will see each other and it will serve side-by-side with each other. The relationships will be built more strongly than they've ever been built. But whatever happens with that, our goal is really simple. You and I become like Jesus and we encourage one another. We build one another. We walk out of this place hand-in-hand, stronger than when we came in here Sunday after Sunday, week after week, month after month. We want to send you out of here into a world that needs to hear the most important message in the world and that is that Christ can make a difference in your life.

There's a world out there that is tired of getting kicked around and we have what they need to hear so the challenge is to see them, to seek for their best and to speak to them a word that ultimately matters -- a word about Jesus. . . . . .

Maybe you're here this morning and you need a word from Him. If there's a word that we can offer you, we would encourage you to let us do that. If there's a way that we can meet your needs, we want you to come and meet that need. If it's not now during this particular song, then between services, come find us and let us help address whatever it is that's going on in your life.

If you don't know Jesus, if you've never heard that word from Him, we want to speak it to you clearly. Give us a chance to tell you about what He can do for you.

Let's stand and sing.