Sermon October 17, 2021: You Do Not Have, Because You Do Not Ask (Pentecost 21)

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If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/634024795

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cr6D0ZVX5z1

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If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP: Please recommit your life to follow Jesus as Savior and Lord with the words of the WESLEY COVENANT PRAYER:

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

HYMN O How I Love Jesus
or
Gaither Vocal Band – You Are My All in All With Canon in D [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDZZ0-F5EKk

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − Reinhold Niebuhr

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference … living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; taking this world as it is and not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God (3vv) [with lyrics for congregations]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFxZeY2D5tc

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: You Do Not Have, Because You Do Not Ask
Text: James 4:1-10, Galatians 5:13-14
Series: Doers of the Word

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

James 4:1 What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? 2 You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask.

3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is in vain that the scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace; therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

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HYMN Beneath the Cross of Jesus
or
Gaither Vocal Band – He Touched Me [Live]
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5m–ptwd_iI

(Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

BENEDICTION: Please recommit your life to the service of Jesus as Lord with the words of The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life
Amen

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

You do not have … because you do not ask. This week’s sermon from James 4 is almost part two of last week’s because conflict and difficulty that we feel is quite often the result of bad information and bad knowledge that gets us all stirred up about something that’s not true.

Let me tell you something that to me is great and marvelous news. This little saying by W. Edwards Deming: “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” Now, let that sink in. “Every system,” and God created the world out of systems, “is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” Now, what that means is – if you’re getting a result that you don’t like – it’s built into the system. It’s not a matter of chaos. It’s not a matter of little demons tinkering. It’s not a matter of bad luck or that you’ve broken a mirror, or spilled the salt. There’s something that happens that causes that bad result.

And if you change what you’re doing, if you change what is happening, the results will change.

Every system by which I live my life is perfectly designed to cause me to be 75 pounds overweight! And if I want to change that, all I need to do is change something in the system. And changes will happen.

You see, all of our problems, all of my problems, are built-in. And, therefore, I have some control. I am not helpless. I am not hopeless. I have some control.

Now the root of conflicts, as we talked about last week, is bad knowledge comes in and we believe it and it stirs us all up and we get upset. If you are going to change the system in which you live, you cannot let bad knowledge guide you. If you are going to change the system you live in, you need good knowledge – in other words, you need the truth. Because if you don’t have the truth, any decision you make, any action you take, is very likely to have what they call unintended consequences, which other people call bad luck. You need to know the truth to make a change that’s going to fix the problem.

Now, whatever it is that you’re upset about, whatever it is that you’re in conflict about, let me avoid that because I sure don’t want to stir anybody up. Let me tell you about my problems. And here’s my problem: There’s too much sugar in my life.

In 2003, I discovered I was a type two diabetic. And the result of too much sugar over too many years is type two diabetes. So here’s the reason or the logical system:

If it’s true that every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets, and if I get bad consequences, then it’s possible for me to adjust the system for different results. Because here is the truth, when you make a change, something else changes, but God help us if we make the wrong change! You can drive down the interstate highway and you can close your eyes and turn this way and that way … it’ll change. But if you’re trying to drive with your eyes closed, the change probably won’t be what you want!

If I understand the truth about this illness of diabetes, I’ll be able to make decisions that will lead to a better life and better changes. So let me explain something to you that you may not know about insulin. The picture on the screen that you’re looking at happens to be a mountain in Japan where the snowfall is so deep that the snowplows literally pile it up on the side in walls this high. And when I look at this picture, it seems to me that that’s the blood moving through my arteries. On either side of it, those are walls of fat because we all know that obesity does influence diabetes.

But there are a couple of things you may not be aware of, first of all, your digestive system breaks down everything you eat. It breaks it down into all the individual components. When you eat a pickle, cucumbers don’t begin to form elsewhere on your body because everything’s broken down, but we have this impression in our mind– in fact, there is a saying about it: a moment on the lips, an eternity on the hips. We have this impression that when we eat fat, it goes right into the bloodstream and goes to fat around the belly or wherever. That’s not true. Everything you eat is broken down into its components, and carbohydrates are broken down into their components, different kinds of sugar.

And insulin has two tasks. The first one is that insulin has the task of facilitating what scientists call diffusion across a membrane. Every cell in your body is right next to a blood vessel and every cell in your body has a membrane and insulin helps that membrane open up to let sugar in, okay? And it diffuses until there’s a balance, 50% outside, 50% inside. But if the blood sugar in your bloodstream is too high, there’s too much sugar inside the cells.

We have another assumption that’s incorrect, which is that these cells are empty of sugar. They are not. They’re overflowing, just like the bloodstream And you see insulin doesn’t have any place to put that extra sugar, but insulin has one other job that it does. Insulin converts blood sugar into fat.

See all of this? (pats belly) It’s from all those doughnuts. Insulin converts blood sugar into fat. And if your blood sugar is too high, there are only two places it can go: into the cell until the cell is full, and the rest of it all gets turned into fat. And if your blood sugar is high, your body keeps putting more and more insulin in the blood, and there’s nothing much it can do except turn all that blood sugar into fat.

And so the fat cells around your belly, they grow as big as they can. They max out. Where does your body put the fat when the fat cells are full? It puts it in your liver. It puts it inside of other organs in your body, and it puts it in your pancreas. And eventually, your liver gets clogged with all this fat. And your pancreas gets clogged with all this fat. And unfortunately, when the pancreas is clogged, it can’t make more insulin. So you have to inject yourself with insulin and that insulin goes to work, and it looks at your bloodstream, and it says “there’s too much sugar here. I got to turn it into fat.” And everything gets worse.

You know something that is almost a miracle? If you have bariatric surgery – that’s where they staple your stomach, where they take out part of your stomach – it is an almost instant and complete cure for diabetes. Scientifically proven, it always cures diabetes.

And you know what? Within a couple of weeks of fewer calories (due to the surgery), your body starts to use up the fat that’s in the liver, uses it up first, starts to use up the fat in the pancreas, uses that up first, and before there’s any loss out here (pats belly), the diabetes disappears.

There’s not sugar coming in as before. The problem with my diabetes is not that the sugar isn’t going into cells. The problem is that too much of it is coming into my mouth. And as far as I know, that’s good information.

So now let’s apply it to what James is saying in chapter four. What causes wars and what causes fightings among you? What causes conflict and arguments? What causes all this stress? Is it not your passion? Your excess negative emotions that are at war in your members, and there, it’s not members of the church, it’s members of your body. The stress you feel is literally creating a war in your body. You desire, verse two, and do not have. Now, what decisions are you going to make to change the system? Here’s what James points out is a mistake on our part: So you kill. And you covet, which is another word for envy. You covet and can not obtain, you can not get what you want, so you fight and you wage war.

There are Ten Commandments. The final one is thou shalt not covet. Now, do you know what coveting is? Coveting is, “I want that brand new Lexus. And my neighbor has a Lexus, and so I’m mad at my neighbor.” That’s envy. And it’s possible that your envy might cause you to pray, “Lord, I want a Lexus too.” But you know what coveting is? Coveting is, “Lord, I want his Lexus, and I want him to drive my old jalopy. I want to take something away from other people so that they suffer and I have what they want.” And you see, here’s the problem. James says that’s the cause for conflict, that’s the cause for stress. But the reason that you don’t have is because you don’t ask.

But there’s another problem with this. It’s not just a matter that you do not have because you do not ask. Because you see, here’s my problem: It’s that I want all those éclairs without the consequences of all of those éclairs. And there’s a particular problem, James goes on to talk about it with regard to praying: “Lord, let me eat all of the éclairs I want without any negative consequences.” That’s an example of “spending it on our lusts.”

And God says, “That’s not how I made the world to work.” Because you see, in our prayers frequently this is where we go, “You ask and do not receive.” James says, “Because you ask wrongly. You ask in a wrong way to spend it on your passions.”

“Lord, I want a Lexus. I want my neighbor’s Lexus. I want my neighbor to have to drive my jalopy. In fact, I want a Lexus for all of my relatives, every single one of them, including my daughter, who doesn’t even have a license yet.” You’re asking for what is beyond any limit of reason. You’re asking to spend it on your passions, on your lust, on your greed. And those prayers will not be successful.

James explains why in verse four, “Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God … and what’s the world, all of the eclairs you want?” Or do you suppose that it’s in vain that the scripture says jealousy over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us, but he gives more grace, therefore, it says God opposes the proud… Remember, that’s all the Lexuses that you want. But he gives grace to the humble. Humble prayers will be prayers that are answered.

Therefore, James says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you men of double mind.” This is what it means to humble yourself. “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”

You see, if you genuinely need something, like a cure for diabetes, that is a prayer that God will answer. But if I pray prayers that basically say, “Lord, make the rules of creation not apply to me. Let me have all the eclairs that I want without any negative consequences” … it’s an act of defiance. It’s an act of arrogance and pride. It’s a change made in the system that will not lead to good results. What does that mean?

Well, let’s take a look at this because here’s the reality about temptation. James says, “Resist the devil.” And we have this impression of the devil as this great, mighty powerful, frightening figure. And you know something? I don’t like being frightened. I do not watch scary movies! Some people like scary movies, but not me. I do not like being frightened.

But here’s what James says, “Just resist the devil.” You have bad knowledge about the devil. You have mistaken ideas about the devil. All you need to do is resist. Why? Because the devil requires your consent to win. The devil requires your cooperation to win. The devil requires you to give in to temptation to win. And you see, you do not need to give in. You do not need to surrender to the devil.

Because if you do, if you yield to that temptation and consume too many éclairs or alcohol or something else, if you give in to that temptation to believe that you can drive 95 miles an hour through downtown Salem and never get caught, eventually, things will turn out badly. Maybe not the first time. It’s built-in. But you do not need to surrender to temptation recognize temptation for what it is: it’s a bad deal. It’s a bad deal. The benefit you get is quite often no benefit at all but it’s a moment of pleasure, and long term, the consequences of all those éclairs start to pile up.

Some of you are old enough to remember these commercials where Bert Lahr dresses up like the devil, and he holds that potato chip in his hand and he looks at you and he says, “I bet you can’t eat just one.” How many of you found out that he always wins that bet? I did try it once, to eat just one. It lasted a couple of minutes.

But you see, that’s the problem with temptation. It fools you into taking a bad deal. The problem that I have with temptation is not only the éclairs which are wonderful, but all anybody has to do for me to make a temptation almost impossible to refuse is to put a little sign up next to all those éclairs that says, “Free eclairs today!” Or “All you can eat for one dollar!” It’s awfully hard not to surrender to that temptation!

But you know something? I still wind up going back to the all-you-can-eat buffet. And I still find myself walking out of the restaurant saying to myself that was not a wise decision.

One of the best things for my health would be if nothing was ever on sale, and the price for everything was 10 times more than they’re charging now! But see, that’s what it means to pray for something: to spend it on your passion, on your temptation, on your luck, to fuel an addiction, to get away with bad behavior. It’s not a good choice for us.

But if we humble ourselves, if we are willing to surrender, we will find that God will help us in our time of need.

I don’t know if you have the privilege of knowing someone who is what we call a recovering alcoholic. I don’t know if you’re aware of this thing called the 12 Steps, which has helped millions of people to give up alcoholism, to give up narcotics addiction, to give up all kinds of terrible behaviors. But if you do, quite frequently, they will tell you about the power of the 12 steps.

What you may not know, however, is the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are actually, originally from a religious group that was brought into that movement.

And not only that, the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is actually a process of religious conversion. Because one of the things that alcoholics found out 70, 80, 90 years ago was one of the few things that could help them to stop this behavior was a religious conversion. And built into those 12 steps, friends, there’s a religious conversion that perhaps might help you and I, but particularly in the first three steps.

Here’s the first step. We admit it that we were powerless over _____. (Blank.) Whatever it is. Éclairs. Other people might have that power, but we just don’t. And because we can’t help it because we’re powerless, whether we’re overwhelmed by temptation or whether we give in to it too easily, whatever it is because we’re powerless, our lives have become unmanageable, full of chaos, full of craziness. And you see, that’s the first surrender – to admit that you have a problem. No matter what the problem is, the first step to humble yourself is to admit that you have a problem.

And here’s the second step and that’s to believe that God can help you with your problem. The way the second step expresses it is very, very clear. If you believe that God can help you, if you believe that God can take that crazy, unmanageable life and restore it to sanity … that’s another surrender. Because you see, there’s a whole lot of people who can admit they have a problem, and quite often that goes along with believing that God can’t help them. But you surrender when you realize that God can help you and you believe that.

And then the third step: to make a decision, to turn our will and our lives including the problem over to the care of God.

That surrender is a prayer that gets results.

So you see, your life is a system. It is perfectly designed to have all the success that you’re enjoying, but also built-in are all the problems that happen. But if you can admit that you have a problem and if you can believe that God can help you with that problem and if you can surrender by making a decision to turn your will and your life over to the care of God, God can help you to change the system in which you live.

Please pray with me. Lord, help us to believe in you. Help us to believe in you, even when we’re filled with despair. Help us to believe in you, Lord, to the point to where we’re able to do that thing that is so difficult, which is to admit to ourselves that we have a problem that is apparently beyond our ability to fix all on our own. Lord, we may be good, but we’re not that good! We may be wise, but we’re not that wise. We may be able to do a little, but find that we fall short and we cannot do enough.

But Lord, if we can admit that we have a problem, believe that you can help us, then we can make a decision to surrender and turn over our life, including all the problems to turn our life over to you and you can bring us through that valley of the shadow of death. You can bring us to green pastures and still waters. You can bring us to a place to where we say we shall not want. Because not only have our souls been restored to hold us, you have brought to us what we need. Lord, I pray that you will work in our lives as we struggle so that we will pray prayers that are answered and turn away from prayers that do not work. And I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple-makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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