January 29, 2023 Rule #2: Do All The Good You Can (Epiphany 4)

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/793734802

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c0VUeEVxoBd

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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: Psalm 1:

1 Blessed are the ones who walk not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers; 2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law they meditate day and night. 3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, that yield their fruit in its season, and their leaf does not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

HYMN 64 Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy, Holy- A Capella by Micah Derksen
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pk4BNgahmk

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − 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.

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 410 I Want A Principle Within
I Want A Principle Within by the Collingsworth Family
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHZVow1Zi7c

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: Rule #2: Do All The Good You Can
Text: Matthew 11:28-30, Ephesians 2:8-10, James 4:17, Matthew 5:14-16
Series: Organizing For The New Year

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

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Eph 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God– 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

James 4:17 Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

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HYMN 337 Only Trust Him
David Phelps – Only Trust Him from Hymnal (Official Music Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRK-RyuqCMY

BENEDICTION 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.

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

Matthew Chapter 4: “Jesus,” it says, “began to preach: ‘Repent.'” And we’re talking about that word and what it means. What does it mean to repent? And the phrase I’m using is that to repent means to get organized to do God’s will, to get organized for a better year … because the way we’ve always done it before may have many wonderful aspects, but God deserves better than the way we’ve always done it before. And John Wesley gave his people three rules for how to get organized to do God’s will.

And we talked about the first rule last week. And the first rule is to do no harm.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, the quickest way for you to find some peace is to look for something you’re doing that causes harm, harm to you, harm to somebody else because if you can stop, if you can drop, if you can quit that thing, if you can press pause, it will immediately make room in your life for more of what you need.

If you don’t have enough time, there’s something you can stop, and all of a sudden you’ll have more time.
If you don’t have enough money, there’ll be some spending habit you can drop.
There’s something you can quit or pause.

And I would like to suggest it’s easier to drop out something you should let go of than to add one more thing to all the things you have to do. We talked last week about what’s called the Pareto Principle. It’s also called the 80/20 rule. And this is the Pareto Principle: that 80% of the good that happens to you comes from 20% of the things that you do. But 80% of the harm, 80% of the problems, 80% of the stress comes from 20% of what you’re doing. And immediately all of that goes away if you can stop or drop or quit the thing that’s holding you back and doing you harm. So that’s the first rule.

And here’s the second rule: do all the good that you can. Now John Wesley is said to have said this quote below. He never did. But it really summarizes the way the early Methodist people thought about it. What should you do? You should …

Do all the good you can
by all the means that you can
in all the ways that you can
in all the places you can
at all the times that you can
to all the people that you can
as long as ever you can.

And I’ll be honest with you, that’s not a bad summary of the way the early Methodists look at it. But it reminds me of a bumper sticker or a saying I’ve seen on coffee cups: “Jesus is coming. Look busy.” Busy is not necessarily what Jesus wants … because, remember 80% of the good that you do comes from just a few things that you do. And all too often, we can really get very busy doing things that don’t really matter much at all. And we can think that we’re making great progress, but really we’re not.

It makes me feel a little sheepish when I think about the bicycle, how we end our service, how we’ve ended our worship service every Sunday for 9 years. Now don’t just stand there, get busy; Do something.

Oh, friends, it’s not a bad thing to think before you start to do things. Because if you don’t, you can find yourself in another kind of overwhelm. You are overwhelmed with all the good things that you’re doing … without really thinking about whether they do any good.

Now, it is better to wear out than to rust out. And we have lots of good people in terms of how much they do for God – they are wearing out. But so many others … Well, frankly, they’re rusting out.

But it’s good to think before we get busy. And as you’re thinking, here’s what I would recommend in terms of deciding what you should do that will be good:

The first suggestion is, take a look at that first rule first: Do no harm. You could do a lot of good by quitting some things that don’t help you a bit.

The second suggestion is, ask yourself, “When I choose to do certain things that I feel are good, am I doing them because they’re fun and easy OR are they things that allow me to avoid, maybe, what would be more beneficial?” A lot of us, when we get overwhelmed, it’s because we’re avoiding something by being busy instead of facing it. And after you’ve looked at those two things, then I think it’s useful to ask the question, “How can I do all the good that I can?”

Well, here’s my first answer to that question, one of several. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you …” In other words, Jesus says to us: “I have a yoke, I have a task, I have some work, and I want you to do that for me. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Friends, every single one of us has a calling. Every single one of us has something that Jesus wants us to do. And whatever that “yoke” is, it’s probably a better investment of your time and energy to do that than something else.

Friends, I guarantee you, you do not want me to work on your car. You may need someone to work on your car, but you don’t want me to work on your car. I’m the kind of person who thinks, “I wonder what would happen if I plug this wire in over here instead of over there.” I’m the kind of person who thinks during an oil change, “I wonder what would happen if we used corn oil in stead of 10W-40?” I’m the kind of person you should not trust to work on your car! Thank God I am not called to work on cars.

I’m the kind of person who when I mow the yard, I leave long stretches and stripes of grass that I miss because I just don’t see them. Thank God it’s not my calling to mow the grass.

But if it is my calling to be a preacher, it’s probably smart for me to focus on doing the good that I can in the area that I’m called. So when you have too many choices as to what you can do in terms of doing good, you should do the one that Jesus has asked you to do.

Now, these oxen are pulling a plow. When they put the yoke on, they know that’s what they’re supposed to do. I have no idea what they’re saying to each other. Maybe they’re saying to each other, “I wish just once Jesus would ask me to make lunch,” but friends, I don’t think you want the ox in your kitchen. I don’t think you want these oxen working on your car.

There are certain things that God wants us to do, and we are perfectly made to do them, which is why Jesus could say, “If you do what I want you to do, if you take my yoke upon you and do the work that I want you to do, you’re going to find that to be easy because my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” So every single one of us has a calling, and we should consider what it is.

A second possibility, Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, God is working on us, helping us to be better people, for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Therefore, I would suggest that from when you get up in the morning and you go to bed at night, I’d like to ask you to consider that you’re walking on a path that Jesus has given to you throughout your day. What you’re going to find, sprinkled along that path, you will have opportunities to do good, and you can look for them. There are so many other things you could do, but if you look for what God has set right before you, most of the time, the good work, the good thing that you can do on the spur of the moment, turns out to be the very best choice. You will find your opportunities along the way.

If you meet someone, they’re there on purpose. If they need something, maybe it’s a matter of just taking care of it. Sometimes all God wants us to do is notice this person who has a problem and pray for them. If this person has had an answer to prayer, remind them of how kind God is. You can let your environment tell you – this is what God wants me to do – by looking around you and seeing what needs to be done. So that’s one opportunity.

But also, please keep in mind that same 80/20 rule. As you walk along the path, 20% of the good that you do will result in 80% of the benefit. So sometimes you can be guided in terms of knowing what good you should do simply by asking what brings the best return on investment.

Now, let’s just assume that this man in the picture who is sad and who is looking down, let’s assume that the reason he’s sad is that he’s just learned that his wife has been taken to the hospital. And he needs to get on the other side of town because she needs him. What should you do? Well, some of you could just buy him a car. And there’s some people who think, “We have this much money. We ought to buy a car for everyone who needs something to drive.” But is that really the best choice?

Some people might feel guilty. I should just hand them my car keys. I can walk the rest of the day. I’ll just give him my car for the day. Now I know some of you are saying, “Well, that’s really stupid.” But still, you could do that. There are people who make great sacrifices.

But if you ask yourself what is the real need— what is the real need, what is the thing that would create the greatest benefit, I think it would be if you gave him a ride. Because you might be a little bit later arriving at your destination, but maybe he needs company on the way to the hospital and all he really needs in this moment is a ride.

Maybe that’s the better choice because it provides the greatest benefit, the greatest, as we say, bang for the buck of all the good that you can do to be helpful. So when we have a choice of different things that we can do, it is not always necessary to be extravagant. It is not always necessary to sacrifice. Remember Jesus said, “My yoke is easy. My burden is light.” Maybe there’s something that you could do that is exactly what is needed and no more, the exact thing, just in time that’s needed.

You’re familiar with this picture because every Christmas, I always talk about Mary and Joseph being turned away from the inn as an example of people not noticing their neighbors. Friends, it is a commandment for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. And so, therefore, it’s important that we notice our neighbors because God will most often prompt us to do good in the lives of neighbors. Now, occasionally, like the good Samaritan’s experience, your neighbor will be a total stranger. But I find it very odd how often people don’t notice people they know well who have a problem, but we are more willing to help a total stranger. And it’s almost as if some people are looking for a stranger, rather than letting God ask them to help the person who lives right next to them. Their literal neighbor!

But James 4:17 says, “Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him, it is a mistake. For him, it is a failure. For him, it is a sin.” We need to think when God draws our attention to something that’s happening in our neighbor’s life … but the first step of that thinking is to notice. Notice all the good that is needed, and if you can’t do something to help in that moment, you can always pray. Sometimes, God helps us notice problems so that we can pray about them. Sometimes you notice a problem, like someone whose lawn needs to be mowed, someone whose car needs some work, and if you’re me, you know that God’s asking you to pray for that need, not to do it yourself.

But it’s possible you might know someone who’s really good at that and who could help them. Sometimes, God causes us to notice things so we can pray about them. Sometimes, God causes us to notice things because we know someone else who could do the good thing. It doesn’t always have to fall on your shoulders. But notice your neighbor. You’re supposed to love your neighbor. You’re supposed to do all the good you can.

As Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” And the good that we do lights a path for people around us to come closer to Jesus.

So light up your neighborhood. But how? When there are so many good things that we could do, how do we know which we should choose? Well, here’s Ben Franklin’s advice: make a list. What you’re looking at on the right side of the picture there is Benjamin Franklin’s way of planning his work for the day. In the right-hand column, he would list his appointments from when he would get up in the morning at 5:00 and go to sleep at 10:00. The things that he would do every day are printed there, but then he would write in all the others.

But notice over on the left-hand side, he would ask himself two questions. And then he’d make a list to answer to each question, and the first question was this, the morning question; he asked it in the morning during his time of learning and thoughtfulness and prayer. The morning question is this: “What good shall I do this day?” Friends, that’s a good question for each one of us to ask: “What good shall I do this day?” and then you make your list.

And you notice down at the bottom of the page, in the evening, he’d ask himself, “What good have I done today?” Because things just pop up. Things just happen, and you do the right thing in the moment because you feel prompted by God. That’s where he would write those down.

But you’ll also notice the morning part is much bigger than the evening part. You know why? A lot of things you put on your list won’t happen today, but because they’re on your list, they’ll happen tomorrow or the next day because they have your attention, and they are on your mind. If there’s something you need, if there’s something you notice, and you make a list, it will stay on your mind, and most likely, it will eventually get done.

So my best answer to John Wesley’s rule – Do all the good you can – is to make a list and think about it. Sometimes the problem you notice, what God wants you to do, is pray. Sometimes, a problem that you notice is for someone else to fix; you have a friend, and you can ask them, and you can help someone together. Sometimes, you’re supposed to do it, but not just yet. But certainly, it is true; God wants us to do all the good that we can.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we are not meant to be disengaged from the people around us, but we are meant to be involved with the people that you called our neighbors. We are meant to be involved with the people who you told us to love as we love ourselves. And so help us, Lord, when we encounter another person, to notice and to make a note about all that we see. Help us, Lord, as we move from one situation to another, to notice if something’s wrong. And make a note so that we can be a part of the solution, so that we can ask, “Lord, what is your will for my life? What good shall I do this day?” We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. 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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