January 25, 2015 at Palo Alto Church of Christ
Did you ever have a moment in your life where you wondered “Is it really worth it?”
I’m sure you have seen the mob crowds lined up for hours on the evening before Black Friday. We have seen them wait in the cold, rain and even snow while waiting to be in the first 500 or so people to gain entry into the store.
Would you wait overnight in the rain to get the first Christmas presents from a collection of the most popular toys and gadgets? Would that wait be worth it?
We have even seen all-night waiting turn into a horrific stampede with Walmart doors being broken open and people getting trampled to death. This was definitely not worth it to those injured and killed.
Would you line up outside an Apple store in a portable chair and blankets for two days to get the first few Apple iPhone 7s? Would waiting in the rain be worth it?
I know there some people here that love the latest in tech gear. Raise your hand if you would wait one hour to get the latest curved LED TV at 75% off. How many would wait two hours? Three? Overnight?
So we can see that at some point it becomes not worth the trouble of waiting.
I have a friend who decided to help a person who recently lost a job and a place to live. He rented a hotel room for them and they were able to find a job within a week. Since their first paycheck where they could start paying their own hotel expense was three weeks away, my friend paid for another three weeks stay.
He received a call from the person the day after they cashed their paycheck telling them they were sorry. They had spent that night at a bar getting drunk and showed up at their new job smelling of beer and inebriated. They lost that job and were out on the street again.
Think about this. Was it worth it for my friend to have done this?
Let’s take one more example. My father told me about one of his friends that loved cars – powerful cars. My dad was at the local garage getting his transmission bands adjusted when his friend pulled up and his tires, which he bought just a week ago all had a flat spot on them down to the threads. In the late 1940s $125 a tire was a big expense and he had the service station put on 4 more new tires.
My dad asked what happened and his friend said “I had to stop fast.” And asked my dad if he would like to go with him to test out these new ones. My dad went along that night.
There was a road that had a war monument in the middle of the town. The road split into two to go around the monument and then came back together at the other side of the circle.
Starting at one end of the road they accelerated and the speedometer was pegged at 120 and they were still accelerating. About 25 feet before the monument, a quick flick of the wrist and a quick hard tap on the brakes and the car slid around the circle sideways. The tires were squealing like pigs full of demons and belching smoke. Another such maneuver toward the other side and they were traveling on the road again. Despite this exhibition of great car handling, the tires were no worse for wear. Whatever he did to put flat spots on all four of the previous tires was a mystery.
My dad asked him why he spent so much money on tires of he was just going to trash them and his friend said “Because it is worth it.” My father said he didn’t think it was.
There is another friend of mine named John that also had an experience that would have him wondering if it was worth it.
Please turn to Matthew 14:1-12 (NIV)
1 At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus,
2 and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife,
4 for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.”
5 Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered him a prophet.
6 On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for them and pleased Herod so much
7 that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.
8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”
9 The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted
10 and had John beheaded in the prison.
11 His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.
12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.
I wonder: As the executioner walked into John the Baptist’s cell, did John ask himself “Was it all worth it?”
After all, he had followed God’s instructions to a “T” and spent years telling people to repent and prepare for the Savior who was coming. He spent years in the desert in poor worn clothes eating bugs to feed himself. He spent years baptizing people and even baptized Jesus!’
Was all his work in vain? Did it really make any difference?
Now, let’s take a closer look at the previous examples.
Black Friday Wait
For the people who camped out and waited to get into the store only to get injured or killed, it was clearly not worth it. However, for some it may have been worth it. Can you imagine the scores of spoiled children wanting the latest toys and gadgets whining and complaining all of Christmas day when they didn’t get the hard to obtain toys?
To the parents of spoiled children we could say they are getting their just desserts. To those parents, it is a little late to retrain their children, so bribing them with the toys that cost more time than money may be worth it.
Curved LED TV and iPhone 6
If you could get 75% off that huge curved LED TV with an hour or two wait, that was certainly worth it, and I might just be showing up at your door with chips and dip and a couple of Tony and Alba’s pizzas.
I don’t see anyone with an iPhone 6, so maybe it wasn’t worth the wait.
Two Sundays ago my previous phone, just two months shy of an upgrade eligibility, died. I took it to the Geek Squad and they confirmed it after an hour of trying to fix it and sent me to another desk to get the return package and wait two days for the advance shipment to reach me.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t exist for two days without my phone. After another hour of haggling, they were able to get me an early upgrade so I could walk out of there with a functioning phone.
It took another three hours for them to try and recover some data on the old phone and I went to lunch, came back and waited some more. Another hour for the final paperwork to be filled out and I had a working phone.
All this was definitely worth it, but I didn’t like the experience a bit!
Was it worth it for my friend? He felt glad he could help someone out, but he was disappointed with the final result. In the long run, he said maybe that person would look back on this and then decide to get some help and beat his demons. My friend said he planted the seeds and turned it over to God to do the rest.
My Father’s Friend
My father and his friend had different opinions on whether those tires were worth it. It seemed that my dad’s friend had gone from a clean-cut youth to a scraggly haired greaser who did nothing but baby his car.
Later on, my father found out his friend was actually an undercover FBI agent and those flat spots worn down to the threads were the end result of a successful high-speed chase.
Once all the facts were known, those tires were definitely worth it.
My Friend John
Another friend of mine, John the Baptist, also had second thoughts about whether or not his work was in vain. He had been arrested and was imprisoned. Fortunately, John’s disciples were able to meet with him and tell him all the news of what Jesus was doing.
Please turn to Matthew 11 starting at verse 2.
2 When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples
3 to ask him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see:
5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
6 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”
Now John probably had an idea that he was not long for this world after being imprisoned for accusing Herod of committing adultery, which was a crime punishable by death.
John wanted to know if all his work was in vain. He might have expected that Jesus should have already assumed His Kingdom and was wondering if he was going to be freed from prison.
John the Baptist was probably wondering why Jesus was taking so long. It is really interesting what Jesus told John’s disciples.
John was sure to recognize these words and they would erase all his doubts.
Jesus referred to Isaiah 35:4-6 which has the qualifications that identify the Messiah.
4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
Jesus fits all of these except the water gushing forth. Of course, Jesus was the King above all kings at this time but His Kingdom has not yet been fully created.
John the Baptist’s disciples would deliver this message back to him and he would then know that Jesus indeed was the Messiah for whom he had been preparing the way.
Let’s continue with Matthew 11 starting at verse 7.
7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?
[You notice that Jesus also wanted to make sure John’s disciples heard what He was telling everyone.]
8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces.
9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
10 This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’
[Both Isaiah and Malachi (40:3 and 3:1) prophesied about this.]
11 I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.
13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.
14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.
“the Elijah who was to come” is another reference to the Scriptures Jesus made that John was sure to have recognized. Malachi 4:5- 6
So, with all of this feedback, John was sure to have felt that his sacrifice was worth it. However, this knowledge was at a personal level and John the Baptist would have not known if his work was of value going forward into the future.
It was through hindsight that we can see if it is really worth it in the long run.
My father came to the conclusion that those outrageously expensive tires really were worth what was paid for them, but only in hindsight.
When it comes to our Christian life we ask ourselves: Is It Worth It?
Is it really worth it when we share the Good News of Jesus?
Is it worth it when we are yelled at and even attacked for proclaiming the Word of God?
Is it worth it when we comfort those who need it and get spat upon?
Is it worth it when we help someone and they just take it and go back to their old ways?
Sometimes we may be like John was at one point and cannot see if we are really doing what God wants us to do. We may not be able to see the results at the moment.
Jesus asked the people “What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind?” Well, John the Baptist was actually the powerful reed stirring up a hurricane of wind!
He just couldn’t see the immediate results that often.
Some people have likened spreading the Good News and performing God’s works like a pebble dropped in a pond – the rings spreading out forever. I’m challenging that and will prove it wrong!
As the distance increases, the rings keep getting less powerful until they cannot be detected.
Now imagine all of us going out to Half Moon Bay and tossing the biggest boulder we can lift into the ocean. Do you think the people in Japan could see our ripple? How about those in Hawaii?
Spreading the Good News is like an earthquake beneath an island in the middle of the ocean. Those people on the island will notice the earthquake.
Some may be deeply affected by it and they may even remember it for the rest of their lives. Others may just shrug it off as an annoyance. Some may even shake their fist at the heavens and blame God for this.
Meanwhile, a huge circular wave is running along the ocean floor outward from the island. As it goes further our out, it builds in strength. When this wave gets close to any land it grows in height and power.
We have a tsunami!
Each of us has a tsunami of God’s Word and works inside of us.
Look at the effect John the Baptist had. Untold numbers of people were baptized and told of the coming ministry of Jesus. These people in turn talked and spread the Word! The people they talked to also spread the word.
The mention of Jesus’ coming ministry was going viral! Talk about social media! The word of mouth is a powerful tool, especially if it is the Word of God.
Jesus’ ministry grew exponentially, and after He died for our sins and was brought back from the dead by God, his apostles went forth like a powerful tsunami! Look at all the people since then who have been introduced to Jesus!
A lot of them have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Some of them have not, but they are not lost causes. That Tsunami keeps moving and stirring inside.
When we as Christians spread the Good News, when we help widows and orphans, when we give a hungry person some food, the power of God is spread. We may not immediately see positive results, but we have surely started an ocean wave which will spread out and affect others as well.
This even stirs within people.
A Facebook friend of mine lost her mother last week. For years, she had tried to get her mother to accept Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She finally gave up about ten years ago.
She visited her mother in the hospital and saw she was in really bad shape. She prayed silently for comfort and peace and for God to have mercy on her mother’s soul while holding her hand.
As she was ready to leave, her mother opened her eyes and motioned to her. Her mother asked her if it was too late to learn about Jesus. She accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior that night. Early the next morning she died.
For ten years, the tsunami was growing inside her mother and it finally broke through the surface.
My Facebook friend didn’t think all her years of work trying to get her mother to accept Jesus was worth it. She gave up. However ten years after she abandoned trying, she saw that her work had indeed been worth it.
You see, and pay attention to this, Sharing the Good News is ALWAYS worth it! We may not see the results right away, but you can rest assured that our labors in sharing God’s Word are worth it!
Another example is this church. Joy, did you imagine that when PACC was started that we would launch pastors for 50 or more churches? During our 50th year celebration I lost count of the emails, videos and even people who came here that were heavily involved in spreading the Good News.
Looking back in over the past 50 years, it is clear that the labors of PACC were well worth it. Furthermore, we can look forward to many more years of spreading the Word of God, both individually and collectively.
It IS worth it!
You see, God guarantees it!
Let us pray.