John 6:56-69                            

Is Your Life Dedicated To God?

August 26, 2018

            After this a lot of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him. Then Jesus gave the Twelve their chance: “Do you also want to leave?”

            Peter replied, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.”

            That’s how Eugene Peterson translates the final verses of the Gospel text before us this morning in his wonderful contemporary Bible translation The Message

            to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God

            You know – commitment and dedication are important qualities to have in life – particularly in the Christian life. We need commitment and dedication in all area of our lives, but especially in our faith in God.

As many of you know, I enjoy watching sports –and football is one of the sports I love to watch.  There is a story I recently read about a football game featuring two very mismatched teams. One team was much larger and better than the other. The larger, better  team was dominating the game, severely intimidating the smaller team in the process. The hitting was fierce. The smaller team, though, had one player who had made a difference in the game – a great running back named Calhoun. He was the fastest running back in the conference.  His coach knew that the only way for his team to win was for Calhoun to run the ball – a lot. The game progressed and Calhoun ran the ball – a lot –and scored touchdowns. By the fourth quarter the smaller team was only down by six points, thanks to Calhoun’s running – but it was taking a toll on Calhoun and the hits he received from the defensive players on the bigger team were mounting up. As the clock was winding down, the coach for the smaller team called for a timeout.  “Give the ball to Calhoun again” the coach told the quarterback.  However, Calhoun did not touch the ball on the next play. He did not touch the ball on the next play either. The coach was getting upset – and when the next play ended without Calhoun touching the ball he was furious.  The team was down to one more play with less than a minute left to play in the game – but the coach knew Calhoun could break through the defense one more time and score.  The ball was snapped and the quarterback pedaled backward and was sacked, ending the game. The coach was furious as he confronted his quarterback: “I told you to give the ball to Calhoun” he yelled. The quarterback replied: “Coach, you don’t understand! Calhoun didn’t want the ball!”

Calhoun may have been the fastest player on the team, but evidently, he wasn’t the most dedicated – the most committed.

Some of the most vital qualities to a successful life are commitment and dedication,  the willingness to “carry the ball”, so to speak, no matter how large the adversary. That’s true in the workplace, that’s true in marriage, that’s true in caring for your health, that’s true in being a responsible citizen. It’s true in almost all aspects of life. Success in any endeavor begins with making a commitment and being dedicated to keeping it. No commitment, no dedication, no victory! It’s true in all of life. But the most important commitment that we make in life, the most important thing we can be dedicated to, of course, is our relationship to Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, when it comes to making an authentic commitment to Jesus Christ, when it comes to truly being committed to Christ and dedicated to Christ, many people are like Calhoun. They don’t really want to carry the ball. They are not really committed and are not really dedicated.

Our Gospel passage for today is from the sixth chapter of John. The chapter opens with Jesus feeding over 5,000 people with five small loaves and two fish. The people knew someone special was in their midst and they wanted to make him king. They wanted Jesus to be their king, and they wanted Him to supply their needs for them, just as He had given them bread to eat.  When Jesus saw that they were getting carried away in their response to His miracle, He crossed the Sea of Galilee to avoid the crowd, but the crowd found Him.  Jesus knew that many had looked for Him because they wanted more bread, so He decided to separate the sheep from the goats, so to speak.  He decided to separate those who were highly committed and dedicated to Him from those who only wanted Him to give them more bread, so He began to discuss theology, which any preacher will tell you will clear a room quickly. Everybody knows that if you want to clear a room quickly, just begin a deep theological discussion. Jesus began discussing how to have a deep relationship with Him and how to let Him change your life – and invited the crowd to look beyond physical things like bread and see the spiritual things He could provide – like a changed life and salvation. Well, the crowd didn’t understand Jesus’ teachings here. They didn’t “get it” and were disappointed. They wanted Jesus to tell them how He was going to meet their physical needs and desires, not tell them how to have a life changing relationship with Him. They wanted to know how to get more bread, not salvation.   They wanted the benefits of following Jesus, but not the cost.  Jesus wanted them to know what type of life changing commitment and discipline His kingdom required, but most of the crowd wanted nothing to do with that, and left. 

In verse 66 we read these words, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”These are important words. “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”  

A lot of folks find following Christ to be demanding and requiring commitment and dedication, but don’t have the commitment and dedication it takes to be a disciple and quit trying to follow Jesus. Maybe life did not follow the rosy scenario they had thought it would when they began following Christ. Maybe you have felt your faith weaken during difficult times in your life. That’s what happened to the crowd following Jesus in John 6. After Jesus fed the 5,000  the people would have declared him king, but within a few days , their enthusiasm, commitment, and dedication to Jesus faded and they turned away.

Friends — the way of Jesus is not for everybody. It takes commitment and dedication to follow Jesus and be His disciple. Some people will declare that they will follow Jesus, but don’t have the commitment and dedication needed to really do so. They might want to pick and choose which teachings of Jesus they will follow and which ones they won’t. Friends — following Jesus means following all of His teachings, and this takes commitment. This takes dedication.  This takes more commitment and dedication than some are willing to give.

Many of Jesus’ so-called disciples would slink away if they were put on the spot about some of Jesus more difficult teachings. Now — before someone asks, I don’t think Jesus told everyone to sell all they have and give it to the poor, but Jesus did tell us to be willing to do it in case we were ever called on to make that kind of sacrifice, and he did tell us to have compassion for the poor and to do what we could to help. Yea — following Jesus takes commitment and dedication, and it isn’t for everyone. Even those of us who are genuinely committed to Him sometimes get distracted.

There is a story “The Day the Cricket Preached.”  The author wrote that as a youth, he sat through many worship services. However, on one particular Sunday he was forced to contend with an added distraction. As soon as the pastor stood up to deliver his sermon, a cricket hopped onto the platform. The tiny dark creature probably came from one of the cracks in the old building. It looked dazed, and stumbled near the edge of the pulpit area. The author says that he couldn’t keep his eyes off of the cricket as it moved from one side of the platform to another. Whenever it would come near the edge of the platform the author would inwardly shout to the cricket, “Jump! Jump!” But the cricket didn’t jump. He just continued to move back and forth. The author says he didn’t pay attention to the sermon  that day, but the cricket was sure fun to watch. At the close of the service an invitation was given for anyone who wanted to follow Christ to come forward. When the invitation song began, the cricket began to move. He almost got stepped on when the song leader walked toward the microphone. Some others who had noticed the cricket began to laugh. Then, says the author, his own laughter turned to amazement. Someone had gone forward to receive Christ! It was his dad. His father had never before made a commitment to Christ. He and his mom had been trying for years to get his father to come to church with them, but to no avail, until today. Now the pastor was taking his dad back to baptize him. “Dad,” the author asked his father later. “What made you want to be baptized today?”  His father answered, “Didn’t you hear how Jesus gave His life for us so that we could be saved?” The author said he hung his head in shame. The  beautiful message of the Bible did not reach him that day. He had been busy watching the cricket. “To this day,” he writes, “I believe that cricket was talking to me. He was saying, ‘Watch me! Jesus isn’t important. I’m more fun!’” Since then, he writes, there have been many more crickets walk across the stage of his life that have distracted him from hearing Christ’s message. And that’s true of all of us if we are not careful.

The fact is that life is one big bundle of distractions. Our work, our family situation, life’s many pleasures and responsibilities. It’s not so much that we don’t want to follow Christ, it’s just that we’re busy. There’s so much to do, so much we want to experience.

Friends — watch out for the “crickets”. Watch out for anything that would distract you from following Christ.  Watch out for anything that would challenge your commitment and your dedication to following Christ. Amen