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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Matt's Messages - The Big Rocks

“The Big Rocks”
December 31, 2006

This is the fourteenth and last message that I have planned in our Home Improvement sermon series on the Christian family.

It has been a good time together considering God’s blueprints for building our families on the Gospel. We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last four months.

And I wanted to end the series by talking about family priorities and commitments. And what better time of the year to talk about family priorities than New Year’s Eve, when we are looking forward to another year in which to set our family priorities and goals?

I’d like to start today with an experiment.

You may have seen this experiment done before. It didn’t come from my brain, but I think it’s a good one.

We have here, my wife’s glass candy jar. Fits a lot of candy, doesn’t it?

We’re going to try to fill this jar up. We’ll start with these. [Big Rocks]

Is this jar full?

Okay, let’s add these. [Little Rocks]

Now, is this jar full?

Okay, let’s add some sand. [Sand]

Now, is this jar full?

One more, let’s add some water. [Water]

Okay, I think we’re pretty full now. We could probably fit something else in if we squeezed it, but that looks pretty full to me.

Now, what is the point of this object lesson?

The jar is your life. It can fill up pretty fast, can’t it?

The big rocks stand for the biggest, most important things in your life.

The little rocks stand for the things that are somewhat important to you but are not the most important.

The sand stands for all of those little things that you’ve got to get done and fit into your life.

And the water is all of those pesky tiny things that fill up all the remaining spaces and make your life completely full.

Now, what is the point of this experiment?

The point is NOT that if you work hard enough you can always fit some more things into your life. “You can do it all.” NO, there is clearly a limit to what the jar can take.

Here’s the point:

How do you get the big rocks in?

Do you think if I put in the sand, water and some of the other rocks first, I could fit in the big rocks? No.

If you don’t put in the big rocks first, you’ll never find room for them!

The big rocks have to come first. Everything else is just filler.

And this is true for our families. We can’t do it all. We can’t have it all.

So, we must figure out what are the Big Rocks, and get them in first.

So here are the big rocks: Television. Right?

Watching or taping your favorite program?

It seems to be a Big Rock for many Americans. Fifty percent of American households have three or more television sets. The average American watches more than four hours of television a day. On average, children in the United States will spend more time this year in front of the TV (1,023 hours) than they will in school (900 hours, and they watch some TV there, too!). [Rosemond.com]

In almost thirteen years of marriage, my wife and I have never owned a TV. We don’t do it because we are more holy than those who own one (we aren’t!), we don’t own one because I know that I would make it a Big Rock–and I don’t have time for it.

So if it’s not TV, what are the Big Rocks?

Surfing the Internet (that one hits more home for me, a waster of my time). No?

Okay, here it is: Climbing the Career Ladder. Right?

Getting ahead at work? No. The famous saying is true: no sane person ever said on their deathbed, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.”

How about: Accumulating Money and Possessions?

A bank account, a house, a boat, a truck, a computer, a wardrobe?

Success? Getting the grade, getting the degree, getting the part, getting the sale, getting the promotion, getting popular.

Certainly that’s a Big Rock?!

Okay, let me step on some toes:

Sports and Fun. That’s what life’s all about, right?! Watching the game, getting in the game, getting out in the woods, bagging that buck, being physically fit, living for the weekend.

Now, I’m not saying that any of those things are bad. They aren’t. In fact, in their proper place, all of them are good gifts from our great God.

But they aren’t the Big Rocks, are they?

What are the big rocks?

Because whatever you determine are the Big Rocks will drive your decisions about what to do with your time, talents, and treasures.

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And you need to know what your Big Rocks are.

I recommend before the day is out and the new year begins that you write out a list.

A Big Rock List.

And I want to suggest four Big Rocks from the Scriptures and encourage you to put them at the top of your list and prioritize them in your life and your families’ life.

The first and Biggest Rock of Them All is JESUS CHRIST.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” (Colossians 1:15-18)

Jesus Christ is supreme! He should be the Biggest Rock of Them All for you and me.

Our relationship with Him should come first and foremost.

That’s what Jesus told Martha.

Remember the story in Luke 10 when Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet and Martha thought that the dishes needed done?

Martha complained to Jesus. But Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. [Only one thing is supremely important–me!] Mary has chosen what is better [being with me], and it will not be taken away from her.”

Now, are the dishes important sometimes? Absolutely. Someone has to do the dishes, someone has to mow the lawn, someone has to fix the car.

But only one thing is supremely important–a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

That’s the biggest rock of all, so it needs to go in first.

When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment, He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

A love relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the most important thing.

And the gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important message!

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance [!]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...”

That’s of “first importance.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Main Thing.

And the Main Thing is the Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!


And everything else will fall into its proper place.

That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [which in the context is food, clothing, and other needs we often worry about] will be given to you as well.”

Jesus Christ is supreme.

And knowing Him in a love relationship through the gospel is the Biggest Rock of Them All.

Is Jesus your Biggest Rock?

It starts with trusting Him through the gospel.

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...”

That’s the gospel. Have you come to put your trust in it?

Today on the eve of a new year would be a great day to turn from your sinful way of life and put your trust in the Savior, receiving the forgiveness of your sins, and being born into a new life.

I invite you right now where you sit to tell Jesus that you want to be rescued by Him.

Tell Him that you believe He died for you and you want to receive Him as Lord and Savior.

And tell Him that you are trusting Him and what He did on the Cross on your behalf.

And you will begin a love relationship with Him that will last forever and ever.

And that relationship should be your first priority.

More important than eating and drinking! Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes for the mouth of God.

The Bible and Prayer are the two chief ways that we relate to Jesus Christ.

Listening to Him in the Bible and talking to Him in prayer.

Is Jesus your Biggest Rock?

Are you seeking first Him and His kingdom and His righteousness?

That’s the secret of contentment.

One of you wrote me a note early in this series for the Home Improvement Survey. Remember that I asked for questions that you would like to have addressed for families during the series?

And one of you wrote this beautiful set of questions, which is really a prayer. It was anonymous, and it says this:
“August 20, 2006. ‘Learn the Secret of Being Content in All Things.’

1. ... being content with the Lord’s provision - the job I have, the home I have, the car I have, the place I live, the abundance of material things I am to manage or the lack of material things to manage, etc.

2. ... being content with the storms of life as they rage through our homes. ... being content when pain and suffering becomes the Lord’s will through the loss of health, spouse, children, and loved ones. ... being content when sacrifice must take place to further the cause and will of the Lord.

3. ... being content with our relationship with the Lord as we draw near to Him when all else fails or when all the world seems to be given to us. ... being content when He is close to us and when He is silent and seemingly very far away.

To find complete contentment in who the Lord is and our personal relationship with Him ... no matter what! Learning to faithfully pass this secret on to our children and grandchildren, this is the secret I want to learn from God’s word.”
Amen!

Paul says that the secret to contentment is knowing Christ.

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him [Christ] who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:12-13).

If Jesus is our Biggest Rock, every else will fall into place and take it’s proper place.

And here are three other Big Rocks that I think that the Bible would point out for us.
They are all less important than the Biggest Rock and are tied directly to our relationship with Christ.

They are all aspects of the second part of the Greatest Commandment: to love your neighbors as yourself.

YOUR FAMILY, YOUR CHURCH, AND YOUR WORK & REST.

These three are sometimes in tension with one another because they are sometimes more important than others at other times. But they are all Big Rocks that need to go in first.

Let’s take them briefly in this order.

YOUR FAMILY.

We have seen how important the family is in God’s plan for last four months.

But a lot of other things can crowd it out!

So we need to remind ourselves that it is a Big Rock and prioritize our lives accordingly.

Can I suggest that you think about this order:

If you’re married, your marriage first.
If you’ve got kids at home, your children second.
And if you’ve got extended family, the rest of your family third.

Now, if your kids are grown your parents might need your more.

But while they are under your roof, they would be more important (not that you should neglect the extended family!).

The place where I see couples going wrong is in elevating the importance of their children over their marriage.

Now, hear me! I’m not saying that your children aren’t important. They are precious, and you need to do The Family Dance!

But I am saying that your marriage is supposed to be the foundation that your parenting is built upon. Kids are safest and happiest when there is lots of attention given to the marriage.

This can be overdone, too, but I don’t see that as much as I see people who take their marriage for granted and think that their children are the most important relationships that they have.

Is Family one of your Big Rocks?

YOUR CHURCH. And your ministry in your church.

Would you have put this on your list of Big Rocks?

Many people don’t.

I was out in public a few weeks ago and I ran into somebody I know who used to go to our church. And I asked this person if they are involved in church now where they are.

And the response was, “Well, I don’t really have time for that right now because...”

Is church supposed to be a Big Rock?

When Paul was writing 1 Timothy, he explained why he was writing. He said (chapter 3, verse 14) “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth” (14-15).

That sounds pretty important to me.

The writer to the Hebrews said that church fellowship was a Big Rock. He said, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (10:25).

Jesus died for His church. Bought her with His own blood. I think she’s supposed to be one of our Big Rocks if we follow Him!

And I don’t just mean attending on Sunday mornings. I’m glad you’re here, but attendance and sitting there doesn’t make you a disciple. It’s only part of the picture.

Here at Lanse Free Church, we believe that everyone who is a disciple needs to follow the Lord in corporate worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service. That’s what it means to be a real part of the local church.

Anything else is less than full participation and treating it like a small rock at best and sand or water at worst.

What is your ministry here at LEFC?

Everyone has a gift, everyone should have a ministry.

Here’s where I see families have elevated other things above church, especially sports and other extracurricular activities and part-time jobs.

Some of our families here have told coaches that they will not be at practices or games that conflict with church activities. I think that’s commendable!

When Heather was a high-schooler, she told her employer that she would not be available to run the cash register on Sundays. Respectfully, she said that if they scheduled her, she wouldn’t be there, and she would lose her job if she had to, to be at church. I don’t think that’s extreme.

Now, parents, sometimes, you might have to get a job that conflicts with Sunday morning worship. I know that the world does not stop for Sundays.

But what are you doing instead? Are you at Prayer Meeting on Wednesday night?

Are you in a Link Group? Are you finding another way to meet with the People of God and fulfill your ministry? Are you getting the CDs of the messages and working through them with application to your life?

Or do you think, “Well, I have to work, don’t I?” and that’s it?!

WORK & REST are the fourth and final category that I am calling to our attention as Big Rocks in the Bible.

Work & Rest are Big Rocks because God has called all of us to do work for Him for a purpose.

Some of our work is homemaking or the activities surrounding being retired or growing up/playing/and going to school.

Most of us, it’s bread-winning work.

But all of us aren’t supposed to just be idle. We’re to find something to put our hand to, and do it with all of our might for the glory of God in the name of Jesus.

Check out Ephesians 6 and Colossians 3 to see that Your Work Matters to God.

So it’s got to be prioritized. Sometimes, yes, even above the family and the church.

Because it is part of what God has called you to, men especially.

There are times that I’d rather be at home with my family that I am in my office or out with you doing my work. That’s part of my job.

The key is to have all of the Big Rocks in the jar and none of them out. And to know that all of the Big Rocks are Big Rocks and not little ones. Then they don’t get de-prioritized away.

And notice that I say, “Work and Rest.” Rest is a biblical category, too. There was a whole commandment about it!

There is supposed to be a rhythm of work and rest worked into our lives. 1-2-3-4-5-6 REST. 1-2-3-4-5-6 REST. 1-2-3-4-5-6 REST.

I see a lot of people who try to deny that rhythm, but it doesn’t work.

Are Work & Rest Big Rocks for you?

You’ve got to put in the Big Rocks first or they’ll never fit!

Application for today?

Now, once you’ve established your Big Rock List [You may break it down differently, at one point this week, I had 7 Big Rocks, but I boiled it down to these to keep it manageable. Once you’ve established your Big Rock List...] you’ve got to start working out goals for each of those areas so that they really serve as your biggest priorities.

And what I suggest is that you set at least one goal for each Big Rock for 2007.

And you set at least one goal for each Big Rock for the next week.

A yearly goal and a weekly goal.

What might be your goals for 2007 in your relationship with Jesus Christ, your family, your church & ministry, and your work & rest?

What might be a goal you could set this week to get you closer to that big goal?

For example, maybe in the family category, you know that you need to establish some kind of a family worship time. So you need to get your family eating together or going to bed together at a time when you can have some unhurried time to study the Bible as a family.

Make that a goal and then find a time for this week and put it on the calendar.

Or maybe you might want to cut down your TV time in 2007. My friend Dan Ledford (he’s showing up a lot in these sermons these days, isn’t he?) has set a goal of reading more than he watches TV this year. And he’s created a system for tracking it and gotten some accountability partners to check up on him. (I’m one of them.)

If you don’t prioritize these rocks, you’re treating them like little rocks and something else will take their place.

Maybe you need to set a goal that has come out of this 14 week series on Home Improvement:

If you are a husband and father, it might be in the area of headship.
If you are a wife and mother, it might be in the area of submission.
It could be romance. I set out last year to increase the romance in our marriage, and it has been a wonderful year for that.
It could be working on the difficulties in your marriage–maybe the gospel if you are married to an unbeliever.
It could be parenting, the family dance.
It could be honoring parents in the family dance.
It could be raising children in biblical manhood and womanhood.
Or readying teens for launch.
Or seriously considering marriage or lifelong celibate singlehood to the glory of God.
Or grandparenting and passing on a genuine faith.

This is a good time to set some goals for your relationship with Jesus Christ (Bible reading, prayer, the other spiritual disciplines), your family, your church (get involved), and your work & rest.

And then commit these goals to God.

Because only He can truly take them and make something of them.

On our own, we will fail. In fact, you might be listening to this sermon and feeling defeated because these rocks haven’t been your Big Rocks.

But there is mercy and grace at the Cross for you. Remember, all along we have been building our families on the Gospel of God’s grace. Not on our works, our efforts, our “making-it-happen.”

But on Jesus and His grace.

He will help you. He will help you to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness and all these others things will come to you, as well.

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