“For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB
God wants to use you. He wants your life to count for something. Not because you are educated or because you know more of the Bible. He is looking for a man or woman whose heart is completely His.
We have talked about four conditions that must be in evidence for your heart to be completely His.
A Dislocated Heart: You really care.
A Broken Spirit: You know you can’t do it and you get desperate before God.
A Radical Faith: You are ready to take a radical step and do something significant.
A Strategic Plan: It’s not just on the inside now you must put a plan together that will let you do what God is calling you to do.
Today we are going to talk about having A Personal Commitment.
A Nashville newspaper carried a story about Mrs. Lila Craig who hasn’t missed attending church in 1,040 Sundays (20 years) although she is in her eighties. The editor commented, "It makes one wonder, what’s the matter with Mrs. Craig? Doesn’t it ever rain or snow in her town on Sunday? Doesn’t she ever have unexpected company? How is it that she never goes anywhere on Saturday night so that she’s too tired to attend the worship service the next morning? Doesn’t she ever ’beg off’ to attend picnics or family reunions, or have headaches, colds, nervous spells, or tired feelings? Doesn’t she ever oversleep or need time to read her Sunday newspaper? Hasn’t she ever become angry at the minister or had her feelings hurt by someone and felt justified in staying home to hear a good sermon on the radio or TV? WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH MRS. CRAIG ANYWAY?
Writer and speaker Lewis Smedes says:
Yes, somewhere people still make and keep promises. They choose not to quit when the going gets rough because they promised once to see it through. They stick to lost causes. They hold on to a love grown cold. They stay with people who have become pains in the neck. They still dare to make promises and care enough to keep the promises they make. I want to say to you that if you have a ship you will not desert, if you have people you will not forsake, if you have causes you will not abandon, then you are like God.
What a marvelous thing a promise is! When a person makes a promise, she reaches out into an unpredictable future and makes one thing predictable: she will be there even when being there costs her more than she wants to pay. When a person makes a promise, he stretches himself out into circumstances that no one can control and controls at least one thing: he will be there no matter what the circumstances turn out to be. With one simple word of promise, a person creates an island of certainty in a sea of uncertainty.
When a person makes a promise, she stakes a claim on her personal freedom and power. When you make a promise, you take a hand in creating your own future. Citation: Lewis Smedes, "The Power of Promises," A Chorus of Witnesses, edited by Long and Plantinga (Eerdmans, 1994)
People who have a personal commitment to something have a contagiousness that draws others to the cause.
A. It inspires to greatness. "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Jim Elliot was a young man who went to a remote part of Ecuador to bring the message of Jesus to a people who had never heard it. For many of us the images of the yellow plane stands for the ultimate sacrifice. The deaths of five brave men has inspired countless others to pick up the message and take it around the world. We can all think of someone who inspired us to do something.
B. It protects us from shortcuts, character flaws, moments of weakness and settling for less than God’s best. When you are committed no matter the circumstances it will protect you from bailing.
C. It provides us and others with opportunities and strength to reach our full potential. When you are committed to your marriage your kids have a sense of strength and security. Personal commitment means you stick with it.
Definition = A pledge or promise to do something; dedication to a long-term course of action, relationship, project, or cause. Dynamics of Commitment – Our Dilemma: We all want this but it takes a strong personal commitment to follow through. It’s a dilemma. Do you know that bankruptcy is at an all time high? Divorce is at all time high. Kids wonder where there parents are because a parent promised that they would do something with their child and then they didn’t bother to show up. Do you know why all those things are happening? A failure to keep your personal commitments. How many of you have had a friend that made a personal commitment to you but when the pressure came they bailed?
It’s hard to get people to keep commitments in this day. Nehemiah inherited a desperate situation. There have been others before him, namely Ezra and Zerubabal and yet still there was no worship. The walls were in disrepair. What did Nehemiah know that allowed him to take a ragtag group of people and lead them to start well and finish well?
Developing Commitment – Nehemiah’s Secret
Nehemiah used these things to develop personal commitment and then sustain it for himself and the group:
1. He modeled it convincingly! He stuck with it.
2. He asked for it specifically! He was specific in what he ask for. (Verbal commitments, intellectual commitments, emotional commitments.) We are talking about deep commitments. Specific commitments from specific people for specific jobs.
3. He created an environment to sustain it! There was accountability and encouragement to sustain commitments so that 52 days later an engineering feat was accomplished. They had no earth moving equipment. No bulldozers or graders. They could never do on their own but they pulled together and followed the plan and 52 days later they were done. It was miraculous.
Look at the scripture:
We have printed this out for you so that you can make sure you have it. Some of you have already looked at this paper after you got in here today and you are wondering if we are going to read this whole thing. We are not. This is not the kind of passage that you would look forward to reading in your private devotions. It is filled with a lot of hard names. Have you ever wondered why in the world this information was included in the Bible? This is full of the names of the workers, who their Dad was, where they are from, who they were working beside etc. There were merchants, priests, nobles and craftsmen.
What does this mean?
Look at the gates.
Look at the kinds of people.
Look at the locations where they were from.
Read first five verses: (the rest is just a handout)
1 Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zaccur son of Imri built next to them.
3 The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 4 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs. 5 The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors. [a]
6 The Jeshanah [b] Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 7 Next to them, repairs were made by men from Gibeon and Mizpah—Melatiah of Gibeon and Jadon of Meronoth—places under the authority of the governor of Trans-Euphrates. 8 Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section; and Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers, made repairs next to that. They restored [c] Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section. 10 Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him. 11 Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.
13 The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah. They rebuilt it and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. They also repaired five hundred yards [d] of the wall as far as the Dung Gate.
14 The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Recab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem. He rebuilt it and put its doors and bolts and bars in place.
15 The Fountain Gate was repaired by Shallun son of Col-Hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah. He rebuilt it, roofing it over and putting its doors and bolts and bars in place. He also repaired the wall of the Pool of Siloam, [e] by the King's Garden, as far as the steps going down from the City of David. Beyond him, Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of a half –district of Beth Zur, make repairs up to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool and the House of the Heroes.
17 Next to him, the repairs were made by the Levites under Rehum son of Bani. Beside him, Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. 18 Next to him, the repairs were made by their countrymen under Binnui [g] son of Henadad, ruler of the other half-district of Keilah. 19 Next to him, Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section, from a point facing the ascent to the armory as far as the angle. 20 Next to him, Baruch son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the angle to the entrance of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 Next to him, Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired another section, from the entrance of Eliashib's house to the end of it.
22 The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region. 23 Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house. 24 Next to him, Binnui son of Henadad repaired another section, from Azariah's house to the angle and the corner, 25 and Palal son of Uzai worked opposite the angle and the tower projecting from the upper palace near the court of the guard. Next to him, Pedaiah son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on the hill of Ophel made repairs up to a point opposite the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. 27 Next to them, the men of Tekoa repaired another section, from the great projecting tower to the wall of Ophel.
28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house. 29 Next to them, Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his house. Next to him, Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the guard at the East Gate, made repairs. 30 Next to him, Hananiah son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. Next to them, Meshullam son of Berekiah made repairs opposite his living quarters. 31 Next to him, Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate, and as far as the room above the corner; 32 and between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs
Observations from the scripture:
I want us to look at personal principles that could be helpful in the areas of our personal commitments.
How you listen will be crucial to the rest of this sermon. I am going to ask you to listen with both ears. What that means is I want you to listen for one thing with one ear and for something else with the other.
a. Where would God speak to you in your own personal private life about personal commitments? Personal commitment to God. Think about you horizontal commitments to those around you especially your wife or husband or closest friends. If you have children, think about the commitments you have made to them. Think about commitments you made to a boss or those you work with or who work for you. You need to ask God to let you hear His voice about your personal life application of this truth.
b. Where do I in any way have some moral responsibility to encourage and motivate others. It could be if you’re a Mom that you will think about your kids. You might think about the people you are in a covenant with in small group. It could be the ministry that you do each week in the church or somewhere else. Maybe you have a chance to influence those at work who need desperately to hear truth. When the body of Christ begins to keep it’s commitments we will stand out like shining lights in this society where so few people keep their commitments. People don’t expect you to keep your commitments to your mate, your money, your job, your kids or even your ministry. We live in a culture where people are surprised when you keep you word or have integrity. There was a day when you could depend on someone and shake on deals with no fear.
Listen carefully for yourself and then for areas of responsibility. How to make and sustain personal commitment:
1. The Principle of Cooperation – “We will never get beyond how we’re getting along.”
Tasks are always accomplished in the contexts of relationships with other people. Whatever you do you have to do with people.
A. Recognize people are unique. That sounds really simple but often we overlook this and it is devastating to our successes. Nehemiah was so smart in the fact that he understood that people are different. It one of the things I love most about our church. We are a very diverse group of people. Do you realize the different cultures that are in this church? It strengthens us to come together and love one another and work together even thought we are different and sometimes have different values.
B. Recognize the immense worth of each person. Every person has value. Does your spouse or kids or people you work with think that you value them? “God, I long to view other people through their need, and eternity rather than their outward appearance, wealth, status or power.” We need to view others through need that they have in their hearts or lives.
C. Recognize that our common vision is greater than our individual differences. Nehemiah understood that God’s work was more important than these folk and their differences. The only way they could accomplish anything in this immense task was to accept one another and their value to God’s project.
Personal Commitments are Fostered When We Feel Like We Belong!
The person that is most responsible for your spiritual growth is you! You need to take the steps that are necessary to make you feel like you belong.
2. The Principle of Coordination – “The multiple efforts of a group are far greater than the sum of its parts.”
A. Recognize we need each other. When you know you are needed you develop personal commitment. This series has been about much more than just developing holy passion for working in the church but let me do a little teaching for a moment. Do you know that there are jobs that right now you could be doing in the church? Many of you are involved and that’s great but I think sometimes people don’t know about ministry they could be involved in or they have bought into the bigger church syndrome illusion.
Bigger church syndrome illusion: That’s where you have come to believe that all the work that is done around here is done by little angels or faries that get sent down from heaven each weekend. They prepared the food and coffee for out in the foyer, they fold and create the worship folders each week. What about all the graphics that appear on screens, do you think we get those emailed from heaven? The illusion believes that children’s workers are beamed in from heaven each weekend. They love your kids and prepare to do the work. Do you understand that the people who do these things are just ordinary people who have come to realize that they are needed. Next time you walk past an usher or greeter ask them if you could ever help do what they do and see if you’re needed or not. Next time your in the children’s ministry area say to Cheryl, “You probably have way too many people working during this hour but if you ever have an opening would you let me be a part?” We are working on developing a ministry opportunity list right now so that you will be able to see what areas are open and needing help. Food Pantry. (Attend one, Work one.)
B. Recognize there is a unique job only you can do.
Personal Commitments Grow When We Know We Are Needed!
3. The Principle of Motivation – “The value of the project to the worker will determine the value of the worker to the project.
This is more than a cute saying. It is absolutely true.
A. Motivation must begin with the leaders and influencers.
That’s why the high priest is there. Their not better than anyone else but there are a handful of people who see things motivate and influence others. Everyone of you is really an influencer somewhere. Who has the greatest influence in any home on children? Mothers do. In terms of time, energy, nurturing, and interaction. Who worries about the details in your home, getting the kids the things they need to go to school, worrying about the laundry and making sure it is done, most often it is mothers. Moms, as you walk passionately with God, you will instill that passion in your children. Who does God call to set the pace spiritually in the home? Don’t look at your wives on this one. Men, this is not a multiple choice question. If there is not spiritual stuff happening in your home whose morally responsible? The man. If there never a time when we set together at a table and share a meal and conversation minus any kind of media whose fault is that? The man. If your kids are never getting any spiritual conversations or bible based principles whose fault is that? The man. The greatest predictor of juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, jail time is the lack of a father operating as a man in the home. (Fatherless America) Men must be men. We must step up and lead.
Now ladies, listen since I know some of you right now are thinking, “I’m so glad my husband came to church today.” When your husband starts to lead you are probably going to have to bite your tongue. Try not to be exasperated. It’s not going to be smooth. It’s not going to be as good as it was when you were doing some of these things and it will probably get worse before it gets better. That’s how change happens. Ladies understand that this issue is one of the most intimidating things guys should be doing.
B. Motivation is sustained by vested interest.
1. The completed wall would mean protection from their enemies.
2. The completed wall would mean provision for a better life. When we are functioning in this community like the church must function it will provide a better life for the people of this neighborhood. The neighborhood around Eastside is already better for the changes that are taking place. If I were in your shoes and could get free I would be going over there and check it out. Especially if you really have a heart for hands on ministry. You do know that they will turn their church around quicker (already have) than we can. Which turns faster a little boat or a large ship?
I almost get the feeling sometimes that some of you don’t believe that the needs are real.
In a conversation this week with someone in law enforcement in this city I learned a startling fact. Right here in little old Newark the use of crystal meth is way up. Last year there were about 59 arrests and already this year it is up over 200. Would you be surprised to know that many of the crystal meth users are women. Middle to upper middle class women. Right here in our community people are losing their kids. Children’s services removals from homes is incredibly higher this year than last because of these facts. They’re overwhelmed. Let me ask you something. Where do we come in? What are you going to do about it? You see I know that God is going to lay a call on some of you to stand and deliver something for Him in our community and you are going to be intimidated and scared. Remember Nehemiah.
3. The completed wall would mean productivity and impact in their world.
Personal Commitments are Sustained When “The” Vision Becomes “Our” Vision.
The vision of a godly marriage. The vision of a man or woman after God’s own heart. The vision of a church that God would greatly use in Licking County and then spread it out as far as He wants to spread it.
With this ear where has God spoken to you about your personal commitments? Is there some shoring up that needs to happen in your relationship with God? Did you make some commitments with Him about walking with Him? Are there commitments about sexual purity? Are there commitments in your marriage? Are there commitments you made to a friend or your children? Are there commitments you made in a business deal and you keep thinking about it and you know you need to do something?
With the other ear where and how does God want you to help and develop personal commitments with people you have oversight over? As a Moms or Dad or with someone at work or in a ministry?. What would the next step look like for your Holy Passion to take root in you? What personal commitment do you either need to revisit or make this morning? Anything come to mind? Why don’t you bow your head and talk to the Father. Where it’s needed tell Him your sorry and where it’s needed drive a stake down today that puts you in the game.
One ophthalmologist said that there were more nearsighted people in New York City than in any other city. His reasoning was that people were down among the sky scrapers, hemmed in by the walls of high buildings, which in turn limited their field of vision. For many the only opportunity for distant vision was to look up at the sky, which very few did. Thus, he said, the constant use of the eyes for short distances tends for nearsightedness and dissatisfaction. Our eyes can be so focused on the immediate that we lose sight of the ultimate. Stewart Babbage was a great Australian churchman. In his office there were four pictures that looked remarkably the same. Their similarity told a sticking story. When he visited the ancient site of Ur, he climbed on the ruins and pointed his camera to the North, East, South, and West. These four pictures were enlarged and symbolically placed on the walls of his study. Within the frame of each picture there is little to behold. In every direction from Ur there is apparent nothingness. These snapshots were not prized for their aesthetic value, but they were daily reminders of what Abraham saw when God called him to leave. His passion and vision wasn’t found on the horizon, but in the patriarch’s soul. Holy passion and vision aren’t cast on the landscape of certainty. They are forged in the fire of faith. Brad Creed, Baylor University Ministers Conference, 1994