Friend’s Day is a program created by Elmer Towns, church growth specialist at Liberty University. The goal is for each person in the church to invite a friend come to church on a designated Sunday. We have done several Friend’s Day in differing formats, but the results have always been the same a tremendous number of visitors in church!
The question for the preacher on Friend’s Day is this, “Should I preach or should I really preach?” On this particular Sunday, I felt impressed to do both!
A word about my opening illustrations might be in order. Generally, they are given with people standing and while I’m in more of a conversational tone. Visitors probably do not realize that I’m introducing the message for the day. Their eyes are on the screens where pictures relating to my subject are being projected as I speak. Saints usually start reaching for their Bibles the moment they hear me get in that conversational tone of voice. They know I’m headed towards a verse of Scripture.
In this particular message, I use a passage from a newer rendition of the Bible called, “The Message.” I must admit that it has been a long time, since a book so challenged me as this one. When I read it, it makes me forget I’m a preacher and I just get lost in the thoughts being presented. While I cannot vouchsafe for its accuracy, its underlying message is truly impacting.
I. Opening Illustration.
For all of us gathered together here, this month marks a wonderful time of fellowship known as Friend’s Day. Yet, to Alan Schmidt of White House Station, New Jersey, it is something more. This month, Alan realizes the fulfillment of a long held dream, a quest that has taken him to all fifty states of this great union.
Alan is a member of the “extra-miler club.” This club has about three hundred members and each person shares a common goal: to not only visit every state in these United States, but every county within each state as well. Only about fourteen members have reached the goal at this point.
These “extra-milers” have a motto, “the shortest distance between two points. . . .is no fun!”
In an article found in the USA TODAY, Craig Wilson details the activities of this group. Some choose to engage in a certain sporting activity in every state such as golfing, scuba diving, or marathon running. Other members are seekers – they look for the nation’s smallest post office or they desire to visit each ballpark in the major leagues. Still others are collectors – they collect photos of highway signs that correspond to the state’s entrance into the union. For example, since Delaware was first, they look for a highway or route numbered one in Delaware and so forth.
Yet, other members, like Alan Schmidt, have specific culinary tastes. One club member has aspired to eat a Big Mac in every McDonald’s in the United States. He has a quite a ways to go!
Alan had another goal. This goal can be summed up in a single word: Blizzards; or more specifically, Heath Bar Blizzards. Blizzards are those thick, frozen concoctions mixed with various ingredients and served up by the Dairy Queens all across the nation, Alan had a goal. He wanted to eat a Heath Bar Blizzard purchased in each state of the union.
Last month, Alan ate one of these frozen treats in Providence, Rhode Island. That was number forty-nine. Before he dies, Alan has one more that he must eat. This is the month that he did so in Alaska. Alan Schmidt has eaten a Heath Bar Blizzard in each of the fifty states of the union.
Why? There’s just this inexplicable longing within man.
There’s a hunger to satisfy. There’s a thirst to quench. There’s an itch to scratch. There’s a longing… a longing for something more.
My text is a bit unorthodox this morning. It might seem slightly unusual and even irreverent. I apologize if it seems so. It just seems to say it better than those in the courts of King James.
It originates from a new rendition of the Bible called, The Message. Not reaching the threshold of a translation, it is simply a reading of the Bible in modern language. Yet, its author, Eugene Peterson is no ordinary reader. As a pastor and professor in Greek and Hebrew, he grew frustrated with people who didn’t grasp the powerful, life- changing truth of Scripture. So, he undertook a twenty year project to put the Bible in contemporary English.
The familiar, sacred phrase, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” is rendered as the following in Peterson’s Bible:
God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.
Yes! That’s the way I feel. But I ask you the question:
IS GOD ENOUGH?
His grave isn’t far from here.
Beneath the spires jutting against the picturesque skyline of the fourth largest city in America, just across a small, lazy-flowing stream, lays the affluent graveyard of Glenwood Cemetery. A walk through the cemetery’s sprawling lawns is a walk through Houston’s history.
Monuments to the people who founded and established this city abound here: Allen, Elgin, Binz, Foley, Rice, Brown, and Hermann. These are the folks who turned a backwater town on a muddy bayou into Space City, USA.
In a special place of this graveyard is the final resting place of America’s first billionaire: Howard Hughes. Born in Houston, early on he announced his goals in life: to be the world’s greatest golfer (haven’t we all?), the world’s best pilot, and the world’s best movie producer. Yet, if his life was determined by whether he reached each of these three goals, then, he died a failure.
Hughes was a codeine addict in the later years of his life. His addiction and crazed state left dozens of needles broken off into his body. He was obsessed with Kleenex boxes, paranoid of germs. When his health finally broke, a midnight jet was dispatched to the famed Texas Medical Center in his hometown of Houston. It didn’t make it in time. What greeted the funeral directors at Glenwood Cemetery were the remains of a frail, filthy man with a wispy beard that hung to his waist. His hair reached the middle of his back. His fingernails were two inches long and his toenails resembled corkscrews.
Golf courses weren’t enough.
Power and fame weren’t enough.
Hollywood wasn’t enough.
A billion dollars wasn’t enough.
For none of these things can ever take the place of God.
B. Speaking Points.
1. There is a longing with each of us.
God put it there.
It was found in our parents Adam and Eve.
What took them to the forbidden tree to partake of its evil fruit? It was a longing.
What caused Israel to turn from the food of angels back to the melons, leeks, onions, and garlic of Egypt? It was a longing.
What caused David to cry out when he was surrounded by his enemy, “Oh! Oh! Oh! That I had water to drink from the well of my childhood.” It was a thirst within a thirst. It was a thirst for a day gone by. It was a longing. It just seems that man is born dissatisfied.
We reach. We grasp. We strive.
We are never satisfied.
We come into this life clutching, accumulating, and gathering. None of us is a stranger to the inward emptiness that shouts, “I have not. I must have.”
A two year old will not accept one cookie and declare it enough.
“More. I want more.”
A four year old cannot be tossed into the air only once and be satisfied. “More!”
Finish a project. Stop and admire it. Then, an inward voice shouts, “More!”
It’s what society calls “living large.”
It is the desire to be the most with the “mostest.”
We want the finest homes, the finest automobiles, the finest clothes, and the finest view.
We hunger and thirst for more and more. Yet, we seem to enjoy each acquisition less and less.
Call it the “Esau Syndrome.” It’s profane.
It’s profane to discard the priceless while reaching for the valueless.
It’s empty to cling to pyrite while gold is in our midst.
It’s vain to clutch to the temporal while ignoring the eternal.
Money will buy a bed, but not sleep;
Books, but not brains;
Food, but not appetite;
Finery, but not beauty;
A house, but not a home,
Medicine, but not health;
Luxuries, but not culture;
Amusement, but not happiness;
Religion, but not salvation;
A passport to everywhere but heaven.
I spoke with a young lady a while back who had a lot going for her. Yet, she was scarred by her past and wounded by her present. Like many others, she turned to the mirage of drugs and alcohol. These led her into a seven-year living nightmare from which she barely, graciously escaped.
“Do you know why I went further and further” she asked me in her now confident and serene voice. “I was looking. I was looking for something I had left behind.” No. Not something. Someone. The psalmist said it, “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing.” You quit looking for something, when you’ve found the Great Someone.
2. God is the Satisfier of our Longing.
Not things. God.
Not possessions. God.
Not goals realized, projects finished, or offices attained. God.
Just God. God Himself.
“You have made our hearts for yourself O Lord,” cried Augustine, “and our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (Confessions, I, 1).
God is sufficient. He’s the One who is enough.
Look anywhere else and you will find nothing to satisfy.
In the book called “The Preacher” or Ecclesiastes in Scripture, King Solomon once told himself, “Let’s go for it. Let’s experiment with pleasure. Let’s have a good time. We will party!” Yet, his carnal pursuits were in vain. He called it vanity – nothing but smoke.
He tried the fun-filled life. It was nothing but insanity.
He tried accomplishments. It was nothing but insecurity
He tried possessions. It was nothing but inadequacy.
Say it, wise Solomon. “There’s nothing…”
Shout it King Solomon. “There’s nothing…”
Proclaim it Preacher Solomon. “There’s nothing…”
“There’s nothing better than God!”
The man who has nothing but God has as much as the man who has everything with God. For if you have God, you have everything. If you don’t have God, you have nothing. God alone satisfies.
The Major League baseball players are threatening strike. Have you ever wondered what would happen if God went on strike?
If God Should Go On Strike
How good it is that God above has never gone on strike because He was not treated fair in things He didn’t like. If only once He’d given up and said, “That’s it, I’m through, I’ve had enough of thee on earth, so this is what I’ll do.
I’ll give my orders to the sun, cut off the heat supply, and to the moon give no more light and run the oceans dry. Then just to make things really tough and put the pressure on, turn off the vital oxygen till every breath is gone.”
You know that He would be justified, if fairness were the game. For no one has been more abused or met with more disdain than God, and yet He carries on, supplying you and me with all the favors of His grace, and everything for free.
Men say they want a better deal, and so on strike they go, but what a deal we’ve given God to whom all things we owe. We don’t care who we hurt to gain the things we like, but what a mess we’d all be in if God should go on strike. -Author Unknown
Yet, God doesn’t go on strike. He provides “all our needs.” He’s a constant friend and a constant companion.
I like the article I read a while back by Virelle Kidder, contributing writer to Today’s Christian Woman. She described the time she lost her best friend. While she was moping around the house, the Lord spoke to her and asked, “Why won’t you let me be your best friend?”
She purposed in her heart to make God her best friend. The first lesson she learned was that her newfound Friend would listen when no one else would. She couldn’t wear Him out. He never said, “I’m too busy.” He never told her in exasperation, “Not again!” What a friend…
The second lesson she learned about her new, best Friend was that He knew her better than anyone else and still He loved her.
Come on, face it. We’re not always lovable. In fact, we can get downright grouchy at times.
Virelle described one hot summer’s afternoon when her children were playing. They were fussing and irritable. They had cried “Mommy!” one too many times. Finally, she sighed out loud, “Lord, I can’t stand my children right now. Is there anything wrong with that?”
The Lord answered her saying, “I know how you feel. Sometimes I get weary of my children as well. Yet, I never stop loving them.”
Imagine a friend like that! He’s a Friend that says, “I have collected each of your tears and stored them in heaven.” He’s a Friend that says, “I’ve planned good things for you.” He’s a Friend that even when you are undeserving, you can live in expectation of His good favor. He�s a Friend.
The third lesson Virelle said she learned when God became her best friend was that God acted powerfully on her behalf. When she took her problems to Him, He did what no other friend could ever do – He worked out the situation.
She remembered when her friend’s husband died of leukemia. She remembered hearing her friend say, “Sometimes, I wonder if God is enough. My intellect is certain He’s enough, hut sometimes it doesn’t feel as though He’s enough.”
That’s the problem, isn’t it? Our minds might be convinced that God is healer, provider, sustainer, and deliverer; yet, our hearts secretly doubt He’s any of these things. Our minds are made of concrete, but our hearts are made of marshmallows. Pockets of uncertainty proliferate in our inward man.
The apostle Paul addressed this issue in his last letter. He knew that the end was in sight. A sharpened sword awaited him at the Pyramid of Cestius. Soon, he would lay down his life. In the midst of Paul�s last instructions to Timothy, we find this powerful assurance:
II Timothy 2:13
If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful.. he cannot deny himself
God is faithful even when we are fickle. When we have nothing left but God, we arrive at life’s irrevocable conclusion: We have enough! “God, my shepherd. I don’t need a thing!”
In Virelle’s last bit of wisdom, she revealed something that touched my heart tremendously. It dawned on her that God craved a closeness with her – a closeness that she had substituted with earthly friends.
Not only is there a longing with man, there is a longing with God. God desires to draw close to you.
3. God longs for a Relationship with You.
Oh, please don’t think this is blasphemy. As big and as strong as God is, He has a weakness. God has an Achilles heel. He has a place in which He is vulnerable.
He has a strong and tender desire to be close with each of His children. That desire brought the Creator into the realm of the created. It placed deity in harm’s way.
God has a weakness, He longs for a relationship with you.
Man too has a weakness. Each of us is like a sheep. We stray from God. We go where we don’t belong.
Hear God’s first question, “Adam, where are you?” Adam, God seeks for you. He looks for you. He desires to find you. Sin, however, hid man from God. The chasm of sin grew wider until it was a gulf that no one was able or worthy to cross.
In the Victorian era of the British Empire, Princess Alice died very young. The story of her death is the stuff of legends. Her daughter had been diagnosed with diphtheria. Each day, Princess Alice watched her girl grow weaker and sicker. Doctors warned the princess to be careful around her daughter since the disease could spread through the sick girl’s touch and even her breath.
Yet, as death grew closer for her daughter, the princess couldn’t stay back. Once, while the child struggled to breathe, Princess Alice for got herself and took her daughter into her arms. Rasping and struggling for breath, the girl cried, “Mother, kiss me!”
Without a second thought, Princess Alice kissed her dying daughter. She too contracted diphtheria and not long later, she died as well.
Real love forgets itself.
Real love knows no danger.
Real love doesn’t count the cost.
God is real love.
God forgot Himself.
God ignored the danger.
God didn’t count the cost and the cost was a cross. There, mercy and truth kissed.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
God, my shepherd. . . became God, my lamb.
God, my provider became God, my provision.
He didn’t do it for His sake, but for my sake.
He stays the same. Not me.
There is fickleness in me, restlessness.
I get sidetracked.
The shepherd became a lamb to heal me of my wanderings.
The One who is enough became enough for me.
God, my shepherd. I don’t need a thing!
In the medieval era, a certain monk announced he would be preaching the next Sunday evening on the subject, “The Love of God.” As the shadows fell and the light disappeared from the cathedral’s windows, the congregation sat in the gathering gloom.
In the semi-darkness, the monk lighted a candle and carried it to the crucifix. He illuminated the crown of thorns. He moved the candle to where its light fell across the two wounded hands. Finally, he moved the candle until the light fell across the image’s wounded side. In the stillness of the cathedral, the crowd could hear as the monk blew out the candle and patiently exited the church.
There was nothing left to say. A cross, a crown of thorns, a broken heart – what more can be said.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
In the stillness of the approaching altar service, I ask you a simple question: “Is God enough?” Let us all answer, “He is enough.”
Excerpted from: “Preaching For A New Millennium” “The Bones Go Too” By Ken Gurley