December 29, 2019

With All Our Might
1 Chronicles 13:1-8

I got amused last week when Debra presented your generous Christmas gift to me. Jokingly, she referred to me as your “rock star pastor.” Of course we all laughed, but in all honesty, Debra may have spoken more truth than she realized.

I do like my rock music, especially the popular bands of the 70s and 80s. Throughout the years my favorite band has been Chicago and I’ve heard them live in concert dozens of times.

Now, on Sundays you see me as your mild-mannered, sedate pastor, but if you ever saw me at a Chicago concert, you might not recognize me as the same person. When I’m at a Chicago concert I’m full-throttle. I sing out loud, dance in the aisles, and cheer with the best of them. Sometimes I even take my tambourine and play along with the band.

While I usually see Chicago when they perform in Atlanta, a few years ago I went to see them when they played in Nashville. An hour or so before the concert I checked into a hotel near the venue and took the hotel’s shuttle to the amphitheater along with several other fans. As we were traveling, one of the ladies in front of me turned around and started pointing at me. “I know you,” she said. “You’re the guy from Atlanta. You’re the tambourine man.”

Thankfully, my reputation didn’t get to you before you called me to be your pastor. Yes, I get passionate about my music, and if that’s a sin, I’m afraid I’ll just have to confess it.

In today’s text, we read about one of my favorite biblical characters. We read about David, the second king of Israel, and one of the things I like about David is his passion. I think David would feel right at home with me if we went to a Chicago concert together.

Rarely do we find David doing anything apathetically. Right or wrong, David is unashamedly passionate. Whether he’s fighting Goliath or leading an army, David is full-throttle.

In today’s text, David is the newly elected King of Israel. He decides, as his first official act, to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. If you remember your Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was a large, ornate box used to house the stone tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments.

Years before David’s reign, the ark had been captured by the Philistine army, but once in their possession, the ark caused them all sorts of problems. They got sick and broke out in boils. So the Philistines gave the ark back to Israel and for several decades the ark was literally ignored, gathering dust in the city of Kiirath Jearim.

In an attempt to return Israel to her spiritual roots, David decided to bring the ark back to a place of prominence by returning it to Jerusalem, the capital city. Today’s text tells the story in 1 Chronicles 13:1-8.

David conferred with each of his officers, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 He then said to the whole assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you and if it is the will of the Lord our God, let us send word far and wide to the rest of our people throughout the territories of Israel, and also to the priests and Levites who are with them in their towns and pasturelands, to come and join us. 3 Let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we did not inquire of it during the reign of Saul.” 4 The whole assembly agreed to do this, because it seemed right to all the people.
5 So David assembled all Israel, from the Shihor River in Egypt to Lebo Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kiriath Jearim. 6 David and all Israel went to Baalah of Judah (Kiriath Jearim) to bring up from there the ark of God the Lord, who is enthroned between the cherubim—the ark that is called by the Name.
7 They moved the ark of God from Abinadab’s house on a new cart, with Uzzah and Ahio guiding it. 8 David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God, with songs and with harps, lyres, timbrels, cymbals and trumpets.

A few months ago as I was reading this story, a phrase from verse 8 almost leapt from the page. Again, listen to verse 8. “David and all the Israelites were celebrating with all their might before God... ”

Did you hear the phrase? They were celebrating “with all their might.” As David and his officers were transporting the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, the Bible says they were playing, dancing, and celebrating the presence of God “with all their might.” (Sounds a bit like a Chicago concert if you ask me).

As I thought about the phrase, I began to ask myself this question. “When is the last time I did anything for God ‘with all my might'? Granted, I put a lot of energy into my ministry and my worship, but I can’t remember the last time I did it “with all my might?”

How about you? When is the last time you worshiped with all your might? When is the last time you prayed with all your might? When is the last time you ministered to the needy, the hungry, the lonely or the sick with all your might?

As that phrase kept stirring around in my heart and my head, I again thought about King David and realized how significant that phrase was to his life and ministry. Without a doubt, King David was the most popular and effective King ever to grace the throne of Israel. And to some extent, that’s surprising. You see, physically David lacked the stature of other kings and his reign was not without some major blunders. One can barely mention David without remembering his sorted affair with Bathsheba and the cover-up that followed. Yes, David was far from perfect, and at times he was thoroughly incompetent; but there was something about King David that caused the nation to prosper and caused Israel to esteem him as the greatest leader the nation ever had.

I think David was popular and effective because of his passion. When he did something, he put all of himself into it. Whether he was leading troops into battle or dancing in the streets, David did what he did “with all his might,” and I believe that was the secret to his success.

You know, there’s something powerful about passion, about putting all your might into what you do. When people become passionate about their convictions others soon follow, but when people are apathetic or indifferent no one gives them the time of day.

That’s one of the reasons Billy Graham was so effective. He was always so passionate. And like it or not, that’s why Adolf Hitler was so effective. Every time he addressed the nation he was brimming with passion. Yes, passion is so powerful.

Over the past few years our world has been plagued by Islamic fundamentalists who have waged a war against all we believe that is good and right. Now let me quickly say that most Muslim’s are not extremists and many of them are as grieved as are we. But the Muslims that make the news are not the peace-loving ones. They’re the ones who fly airplanes into skyscrapers and perform suicide missions in crowded squares.

And while I detest their violence and abhor their brutal ways, I have to look honestly at their success. Like it or not, they have changed our way of life. They have made us take them seriously. And how did they do it? Not with their theological rhetoric, nor their political oratory. These extremists got our attention because whenever they did something, they did it “with all their might.”

I think that’s one of the reasons Christianity is declining in America and Europe. Too often we live out our religion so half-heartedly; but Islam is growing exponentially. In fact, Islam is fastest growing religion in the world. Even in the United States, Islam has outflanked the percentage growth of all Christian denominations combined.

Now there are many reasons for this growth, but one reason cannot be ignored. Islam is growing at a phenomenal pace because Muslims are passionate about what they believe and they practice their religion “with all their might.”

Now I’m not suggesting we Christians should become extremists. As it is with Islam, extremists do more damage than good. But I do think we could practice our faith with more passion, following Christ not hesitantly nor ashamedly, but living out our Christianity “with all our might.” And I believe if we did that, we too would begin to change our world.

On Wednesday, we’ll be starting, not only a new year, but a new decade. As you start this new decade let me encourage you to adopt a new way of thinking, which will lead to a new way of living. Let me encourage you to start living life “with all your might.” Let me encourage you;
- To worship with all your might.
- To serve with all your might.
- To give with all your might.
- To care for your family with all your might.
- To study the Scriptures with all your might.
- And to live as a Christian with all your might.

Yes, it’s time we Christians set aside our half-hearted approach to Christian living and started following Jesus with all our might.

I started out my sermon today talking about rock music, but I want to end this sermon by reflecting on a different kind of music. I want to see if you know this song. It goes like this:

You put your right hand in. You take your right hand out.
You put your right hand in. Then you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey and turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about.

How many of you know that song? Just as I thought – a congregation fill with connoisseurs of fine music.

All right, the first verse is “your right hand in and your right hand out.”

What’s the second verse? (Your left hand in and your left hand out).

And the third? (Your right foot in and your right foot out).

And the fourth? (Your left foot in and your left foot out).

But do you remember the last verse? It may be the most important one. The first four verses help children learn the difference between their right and their left. But the last verse may help us learn the difference between the right and the wrong. The last verse states, “You put your whole self in . . .”

With apologies to the composer, let me offer this edited version of the last verse.

You put your whole self in. You take your whole self out.
You put your whole self in, and you’ll shake this world about.
The way we live for Jesus can turn this world around.
That’s what it’s all about.

Yes, putting our whole self in, living for Jesus “with all our might,” that’s what it’s all about.