We live insecure lives in an insecure world. Yet, we choose to feel secure. We choose not to dwell on the many things that could forever alter life in our families, in our community, in our state, in our nation, or in our world.

Every day we are challenged to expand our consciousness. If there is a natural disaster, we see it. If there is human disaster, we see it. If there is war, we see it. If there is terrorism, we see it. tornado

We believe disasters happen to other people in other places. We think, "Things like that don't happen here." Then, we become convinced, "That can't happen here."

Then disaster comes. Tornadoes rumble through downtown Fort Smith and into Van Buren. Suddenly, life as it was stops. We know it can happen again. We know that all we can do is pick up the pieces and go on. Doppler radar may warn us that it is coming, but that is all Doppler radar can do. All we can do is hide from the fury.

downtown Fort Smith

Grand Forks flood Had you asked the people in Grand Forks, North Dakota, five years ago if a flood could occur in that city, they would have said, "Yes." Had you asked, could a flood totally destroy the city, I doubt that anyone would have said, "Yes." In their wildest imagination, they could not imagine a flood of that magnitude. They can now.

Montserrat volcanic eruption
In the early 1970's I lived less than twenty-five miles from the base of a volcano. It historically erupted every ten years. It was due to erupt. I saw the old lava flows that come within less than half a mile from the highway. And, stupidly, I thought it would be exciting to see an eruption. Ask the people of the former nation of Montserrat if volcanic eruptions are exciting. Their volcano erupted and destroyed their island nation.

When I see a disaster, I automatically think, "What if I experienced that? What if that happened to my family, to my home, to my city?"

  1. Each year of my life I am more impressed with Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:9-13.
    1. 2 Peter 3:9-13--The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
    2. Everything that we consider to be our "security" will end suddenly.
      1. Everyone will be caught completely off guard--not that there is anything we could do about stopping it if we knew it were coming.
      2. This physical world will cease to exist.
      3. How should that fact affect who you are and how you live?

  2. There has never been a time in my life that I did not want to preach and teach.
    1. I never consciously made the decision to preach.
      1. From the early moments of my preteen years when I considered what I wanted to do as an adult, I knew that I wanted to preach and teach.
      2. I grew up in the Cumberland Mountains of east Tennessee where there was an enormous need and opportunity.
        1. In my home area, there were thirteen congregations and one full time preacher.
        2. Most of the congregations were very small, rural congregations.
        3. Incredible as it seems, they were happy for a teenager to come preach.
        4. I preached on a circuit of congregations when I was 14 and preached in my first evangelistic meeting when I was 15.
        5. That really says nothing about me; it says volumes about the need.
    2. All my life I have wanted to make a difference.
      1. I have always cared about people, I have always cared about God, and I have always had intense feelings for Jesus.
      2. I have always wanted to use my life to teach and help as many people as possible.
        1. We people do not know how to use life.
        2. We people are experts at making a mess out of life.
      3. Early in my life I realized that Jesus can teach us how to live and can help us with our messes.
        1. He does not do that by functioning as an insurance policy against problems or a guarantee against trouble.
        2. He functions as strength, as the source of endurance, as compass.
    3. From the earliest years of my life I had a deep, driving desire to make a difference in this world by serving God.
      1. I do not mean that I wanted to be successful or to make a name for myself.
      2. I mean that I wanted to improve the world by bringing people closer to God.
        1. I was naive enough to believe that I could change the world.
        2. Many times my desire was immature, and sometimes it was misdirected, but inside me it was never about me; it was about Christ and people.
      3. This desire always played a significant role in my life.
        1. It was a significant factor in my decision to do graduate studies in Bible.
        2. It was a significant factor in my decision to do mission work in Africa.
        3. It was a significant factor in my working with university congregations for 26 years.
        4. It was a significant factor in my decision to write.
        5. It was a significant factor that led me to a video and audio ministry.
      4. I wanted to do things that would continue helping people after I died.
      5. None of this came from a sense of obligation or duty; it flowed from a sense of love.

  3. Through the years, God has taught me two profound lessons.
    1. Lesson # one: God taught me how insignificant I am.
      1. I am amazed that God even cares that I exist, and I am dumbfounded when I realize that He loves me.
      2. Have you ever realized how insignificant you are?
        1. I love to fly because it puts everything in a totally different perspective.
          1. On the ground human affairs and human situations look massive.
          2. Five minutes after take off, you look out and see just how small everything built by humans is.
          Earth in space
        2. One of my favorite pictures is the picture of earth as seen from space.
          1. Each time I see this brilliant, colorful ball of light in a huge sea of black, I realize how unimportant I am.
          2. I am not even a dot on the surface.
        3. Yet, God knows me.
    2. Lesson # 2: God taught me that the only opportunity that I have to make any kind of difference is the opportunity of right now.
      1. I have absolutely no control over the future and no knowledge of my future.
        1. Three years ago I would have told you in absolute certainty that there was no way that I would be here doing what I am doing.
        2. Anything that I have or I am, I have right now and I am right now.
      2. I know nothing about how long I will live or what quality of life I will have should I live.
      3. That is not morbid--in fact, I cannot know joys of the opportunities of now unless I understand the uncertainties of life.
      4. In a unique, powerful way, I know that God did not give me any ability or any possession just for me to live for me.
        1. The only reason that I have anything is to use it for Him.
        2. When I use anything in a way that does not serve His purposes, I pervert His gift.

  4. I want to call all of us, including me, to a special sense of challenge.
    1. First, let me share with you some information.
      1. A gift of $20,000 has been given for building maintenance that will be used to carpet the foyer, do some needed outside painting, and repair some leaks.
      2. There is the intent to sell the gym that we own on Windsor Drive, and more than one buyer has approached us.
        1. If you as a congregation agree, the funds from this sell will be used for a capital improvement fund devoted to making needed repairs.
        2. We will address the needs of the Laotian congregation that meets in the gym.
        3. The elders have asked Jim Selig, Brian Lea, Darold Wear, and Tim Davis to study the renovation plans for this auditorium to determine how we can do the work ourselves.
        4. The architects are doing the design work for the Family Life Center, and we should be ready to receive bids from contractors by early July.
      3. In round figures:
        1. The Family Life Center will cost about $783,000.
        2. The three renovations will cost about $110,000.
        3. Furnishings for the Family Life Center will cost about $68,000.
        4. Total cost should be around $1,100,000.
    2. I have asked permission from the elders to make this challenge to all of us--this is my thinking.
      1. I want to challenge us to work together to actually do as much of the renovation as possible, which should be almost all of it.
      2. I also want to challenge us to raise by contribution to a building fund as much of the total cost as possible.
      3. I want to challenge us through renovation work and through contributions to either greatly reduce or completely eliminate the need to borrow funds.
      4. Jim Pratt is serving as the contact person and the coordinator for raising building and renovation funds.
      5. We need to know how much we will contribute by late July or early August.
      6. The funds we commit must be available upon completion of the construction.
    3. "David, why do you want us to consider this?"
      1. I have zero interest in building indebtedness.
      2. I have zero interest in building buildings.
      3. I have deep interest in having the tools we need to help Christians spiritually mature and to help people trapped by evil find Christ.
      4. I believe with all my heart that this congregation stands on the threshold:
        1. Of doing the greatest mission work it has ever done.
        2. Of doing the greatest work in Fort Smith that it has ever done.
      5. I have spent my entire life working for the church, and I know that we do not have the tools we need to utilize the potential we have.
        1. I have no idea how much future I have.
        2. You have no idea how much future you have.
        3. All of us have right now; right now is all that any of us can use.
        4. I want us to use the stewardship of right now to capitalize on the opportunities of right now.
      6. I am asking you to pray about it, talk to Jim Pratt; and help us do the work of renovation.

God taught me that I cannot change this world. God taught me that Jesus can. Jesus created the potential to change the world by creating forgiveness for everyone, and he forgives one person at a time. Jesus taught me that when I help one person find Christ or develop in Christ, I have changed that person's world. Jesus taught me to understand that when we change as people, the world changes.

I invite you to the Savior who can change the world by changing you.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 10 May 1998

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell