What is your dream? If you reach for the stars and grasp them, what will you catch? If you make your greatest ambition in life come true, what would happen? If you could give the person you love the most anything, what would you give them? If you could make one big change in our society, what would you change?

I very much need for you to listen to me in context. What I share with you this morning is not an anti-missions statement. It is not an anti-campus ministry statement. It is not an anti-C.U.R.E. statement. It is not an anti-"touch our world" statement.

I find great personal joy in our activities that reach out to other nations and other cultures. I find great personal joy in the potential of a campus ministry work. I find great personal joy in the many things resulting from C.U.R.E.'s outreach. I think it is good to stimulate all of us to dream, to think, to hope.

But sometimes we are content to do little but dream. Sometimes we think that if we dream big dreams, right here and now does not matter. Sometimes we think if we have wonderful desires that come from big dreams, that is all that matters. When that happens, we are deceived. We think we can impress God if we do something big, something important. We are deceived because we think that what impresses humans impresses God.

I surely urge you to dream big dreams for God and for God's purposes, but I urge you to begin those dreams doing what you can do in your life right now, right here.

  1. Jesus stressed the importance of serving God in the "right now" moment of life with what we have.
    1. Jesus' ministry was conducted in a very poor nation, and most of it was conducted among very poor people.
      1. Most of us are impressed with physical things that affect lifestyle, so let me challenge you to visualize Jesus' world in terms real to us that illustrate the poverty of that time.
        1. Among the majority that lived in Palestine, many things did not exist that you and I take for granted.
        2. There was no electricity, not street lights, no electric or gas stoves, no refrigerators, no magazines, no newspapers, no pictures, no mail service, no grocery stores, no theaters, no malls, no gas powered vehicles.
        3. There was no indoor plumbing, no indoor running water, no sinks with hot water, no showers, no bath tubs.
        4. I do not want to be gross and I am not trying to offend anyone, but I want you to realize how crude you would regard their lives--there were no feminine hygiene products of any kind, no toilet paper, no flush commodes, no under arm deodorant, no gel foam shaving cream, no tooth brushes as we have them, no tooth paste, no anti-fungal medicines, no odor eater inserts for shoes, no nail clippers, no watches, no eye glasses, no hearing aids, and none of our specialized medications.
        5. Get the picture?
      2. If you "get the picture," I want you to listen to some statements Jesus made and place those statements in the context of the situation.
        1. The first is a statement he made to his disciples in Matthew 10:40-42.
          "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."
        2. Jesus made a very similar statement to his disciples in Mark 9:38-41.
          John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to prevent him because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. For he who is not against us is for us. For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward."
      3. Here is my understanding of Jesus' statement to his disciples as they participated with him in his ministry among very poor people.
        1. "Do not dream of grandeur."
        2. "Do not focus on what wealthy people will do for you."
        3. "Do not think in terms of position and or being part of 'the power crowd.'"
      4. "Why should I not think from those perspectives, Jesus?"
        1. "Because those are not the things that impress God."
        2. "God is not impressed because people say, "He/she is really important. Look at who he/she is! Look at where he/she is!" That does not impress God!
        3. "God is not impressed with wealth or the lifestyle that wealth provides."
        4. "God is not impressed with human power"
      5. "Well, what is God impressed with?"
        1. "God is impressed with the person who demonstrates his or her faith in Him by doing what he/she can with what they have at that moment."
        2. "If they are so poor, so powerless that all they have is a cup of cold water to give a thirsty person, God notices--and does not forget!"
    2. Did his disciples get Jesus' point? Did they understand God's priorities? No.
      1. There are a lot of ways to illustrate that they did not "get it."
        1. The disciples argued all the time about which one of them was the most important.
        2. They dreamed of Jesus becoming King of Palestine so they could be his administrators as he ruled--they did not want Jesus to go back to Lazarus' sisters near Jerusalem because they were sure the authorities would kill Jesus.
        3. Even the last night prior to Jesus' betrayal, they would not wash each others' feet--assuming such a lowly position doing such a distasteful task was not a very impressive deed to put on your resume for administrator!
      2. Sure, they heard Jesus tell them over and over that the greatest in the kingdom was the person who served everybody, but that was for others--not for them!

  2. Allow me to illustrate the "cup of cold water principle" in two ways from scripture.
    1. The shortest of all Paul's writings in the New Testament is his letter to Philemon.
      1. Background:
        1. In the original, this letter had less than 150 words in it.
        2. It has no doctrine in it as most people understand doctrine.
        3. It has no theology in it as most people understand theology.
        4. In fact, a number of people even wonder why it was included in the New Testament--when was the last time you studied Philemon?
      2. To me, it serves one purpose powerfully--it illustrates the cup of cold water principle.
    2. It is about a man named Onesimus who was a slave and Philemon, his master.
      1. At first Onesimus was not a Christian; his owner, Philemon, was.
      2. In some way Onesimus the slave really irritated Philemon his Christian owner--in some way the slave seriously failed the master.
        1. There is some evidence that Onesimus went all the way to Rome to ask Paul to intercede in his behalf--to do so was not regarded by Roman law as running away.
        2. While he was with Paul, Paul converted him to Jesus Christ.
        3. Then Paul wrote him a letter of intercession which he carried back to Philemon.
      3. There are many worthwhile lessons in this short letter, but I want to call your attention to just one thing.
        1. There was a congregation of Christians meeting in Philemon's home.
        2. Paul obviously had a special relationship with Philemon.
        3. He wrote in verse 5, "Even in jail I hear about your reputation for love and for faith in Christ and Christians."
        4. Verse 9--"On the basis of love, not authority, I make an appeal to you."
        5. Verses 10-16--"Use your love as a Christian to receive Onesimus back as more than a slave, as a Christian brother, and treat him like a brother instead of a slave who irritated you."
      4. I have no doubt that Philemon, as a prosperous man, could do a lot of things.
        1. Paul did not ask Philemon to use his power.
        2. He did not ask him to use his prestige.
        3. He did not ask him to do something that society would think was a huge thing.
        4. He asked him to love and forgive a slave--for a cup of cold water.
        5. "Philemon, you are a man of love--just open your heart to Onesimus as a Christian."
    3. The second illustration comes from a parable Jesus told not long before his death (Matthew 25:31-46).
      1. He spoke about the judgment (and his audience likely thought, "That's good!")
      2. He spoke about the separation at judgment (and his audience likely thought, "That's good!")
      3. Then he talked about the basis of separation (and the subject quickly became controversial).
        1. "I was hungry and you fed me."
        2. "I was thirsty and you gave me a drink."
        3. "I was a stranger and you let me stay with you."
        4. "I did not have any clothes to wear and you clothed me."
        5. "I was sick and you came to see me."
        6. "I was in prison and you did not desert me."
      4. Just one thing to note: they did what they could when need arose.
      5. When asked when all this happened, Jesus said, "To the extent you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me (25:40).

  3. Allow me to get very personal with each of us for a moment.
    1. What are your spiritual plans for the next several months?
      1. "David, I plan to do something big for God in the next few months."
        1. Good! I hope you succeed!
        2. How are you serving God right now?
      2. "David, I plan to go to Guyana next summer."
        1. Good! I hope you can go and help a lot of people!
        2. How are you serving God right now?
      3. "David, I plan to go to the City of Children next summer."
        1. Good! I hope you go and are a powerful blessing there.
        2. How are you serving God right now?
    2. It is easier to plan to do great things for God "way out there" and "way off" than it is to serve God's purposes right here in my life right now.
      1. Kids, how for God are you showing your parents love and respect right now?
      2. Parents, how for God are you showing your kids love and respect right now?
      3. Husbands, how for God are you showing your wife love and respect right now?
      4. Wives, how for God are you showing your husband love and respect right now?
      5. Step children, how for God are you showing your step parents love and respect right now.
      6. Step parents, how for God are you showing your step children love and respect right now.
    3. An observation: it is a whole lot easier to show God's love and your love for people "way out there" that you do not know than it is to show God's love to people right here that you do know.
      1. If we are going to let God shine in our lives, we start by letting God influence our lives right here right now with people who are part of our lives.
      2. If all you have to help those people is a cup of cold water, give the thirsty a cup of water.

If we are going to declare to the world how God has changed our lives, nowhere should it be more obvious than in the way we love and respect the people closest to us.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 10 August 2003

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