Sermon delivered April 29, 2000

by Pastor Kent Crutcher

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Why Stand Ye Gazing?

And now this. They had hoped that Jesus would set up His kingdom. He was back, after all. They were just beginning to hope again that His kingdom was going to come about. And now He was leaving again! The first time, He had died. And now He's going up!

Turn to Acts for the last words of Jesus. Acts 1:6, So when they met together, they asked Him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" I find that a most amazing statement from these men. They had been closest to Jesus. They had been proven wrong again and again and again. This was not the kind of kingdom that was going to be set up. But they said, "Lord, are you at THIS time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

Verse 7, He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Friends, if we want power to spread this gospel, that's the first step: we must get power from the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us that we need the Holy Spirit. "And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." "I'm sure they think it's okay. I can understand Jerusalem, even Judea is pushing it a little bit, but to the ends of the earth?" They didn't have much of a chance to question this. Because in verse 9, After he said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.

Verse 10, They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand there looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back the same way you have seen Him go into heaven."

Wow! It's pretty amazing. Okay. The disciples are there and they're looking at their Savior going up, and there's two men dressed in white, two angels from heaven, "What are you doing here?" "Well, we're watching our best friend leave us." "No! What are you doing here? Didn't He say there was something to do? Didn't He say that Jerusalem needed to know about this? That Judea needed to know about this? That Samaria needed to know about this? That Tennessee needed to know this? Didn't He say that? What are you doing, standing here looking up? Why stand ye gazing here? There's something to be done."

There's a neat verse in Proverbs. Let's turn to Proverbs 6:6. It speaks of one of the most tiny creatures of God's creation. It gives us some advice. Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! I just finished a couple of months ago reading a version of the Bible called "God's Word." It's a fairly new version that came out. I think it came out in Ninety-five. It says, Consider the ant you lazy bum. That's what a sluggard is. That's a real literal translation there. Consider the ant you lazy bum.

I tried considering the ant one lazy day. I remember considering the ant when I was a child. I would sit on the front porch and watch them walking a line across the porch. And they were black. Every once in a while you'd see a red one mixed in with the group, but they were mostly black ants. The hills that they lived in were about that high (6 inches). That was my idea of an ant hill.

Then I moved to south Georgia. The ant hills were larger than my home. They were fire ants and I thought, "Wow. It'd be nice to move back to Tennessee where we don't have these." After I finished up in that church I moved to church in Atlanta, thinking that was the end of the fire ants. The gnats weren't on Atlanta but the fire ants were. I didn't know that. I lived there for a number of years, and then I moved back to Tennessee and I thought that's the end of the fire ants. NO! They're here no, aren't they?

The fire ants are moving faster than the gospel! They are covering this country! I have them in my yard. There's a pot in my yard, at least there was. A wooden, half-barrel pot that evidently the previous owner had planted flowers in. I've been thinking, I'm tired of mowing around this thing, it's rotten. I'm going to take the dirt out of it and throw it away. I noticed that it was simply a large ant house. "Well, I'll disturb this." A couple years ago I had run an electric line underground and the dirt where I had filled in had sunk in a little bit. "I'll fill of this trench with some of this dirt and that will disturb the ants and get them out of here." So I filled up that trench this week with that dirt from that barrel. Now I have a long skinny ant mound. They're thriving. They're happy.

The gospel has always survived and even thrived when there is adversity, hasn't it. The more you do to these ants the more they seem to thrive. I heard on the radio two weeks ago: one way to get rid of the ants in your neighborhood is not just treat your yard but have a block party, an ant killing party and everybody is invited and you have something to eat and you all pitch in and you buy a big bunch of ant killer and you spread it all over the block. That'll take care of it. I don't know. I don't think it's possible.

This afternoon when you go home, no naps today, it's too beautiful. Walk out in your yard and step on an ant hill. One of those fire ant hill, but make sure you have a shoe on. You go out there and you step on it. You don't have to be cruel, you don't have to twist you foot, just step on it, okay? I want you to step back a couple feet if they're fire ants and observe what happens. Do the ants come out one or two at a time: "Wow, what's just happened here? Hey Fred, come up and look at this! Somebody stepped on our house!" And Fred come out and says, "Oh Man! Now what? Do you think that looks like a Nike print or Reebok?" "I don't know. That's a Nike." "Oh look. He's still standing there. You know what, if we rebuild this thing, he's just going to step on it again.. We might as well give up." Is that what happens? Ants don't even take a split second. They all come out and they start working together immediately. It doesn't matter that you're going to step on them again, they're working to rebuild what was lost. How many? Not just one or two, the whole colony swarms and start to rebuild and another group starts coming across the grass to take care of you. They don't want you back.

So, go to the ant you lazy bum, and see how they work. Oh, but we have such adversity in our house, we don't know. We don't have time to spread the gospel. There are people that are trained to do that. We'll let them handle that. "Why stand ye gazing?"

Well, Jesus is taking so long a time to come. "Why stand ye gazing?" Go to work. What work is that?

You know, a person's last words are often thought of as important. "So-and-so's last words were..." My grandfather had some "last words." Before he died, he lived out west and his four sons went to visit him before he died. Just before they left his bedside, Papaw said, "And there shall be a time of trouble such as never was. May the Lord be with you boys in that time of trouble. The Lord bless you and keep you and the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. The Lord lift His countenance upon you and give you peace. Good bye." Papaw thought the end of the world was very near. And he was right.

The last words of Jesus tell us what we are supposed to do before the end comes. Turn to Matthew 28:18 cf. Here we have what is called "The Great Commission" or "The Gospel Commission." Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore I will finish the work on my own. He said all authority had been given to Him, but what did He do with that authority? Therefore (you) go and make Disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." He gave us a job to do. That is what will take place before Christ will come back.

Turn to Matthew 24:14. "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." What an awesome responsibility God has laid upon us. Do we have the commitment to follow it through? Where is our commitment level?

There was a great Antarctica explorer named, Shackleton. I didn't know much about Mr. Shackleton until I got on the internet. Wow! Reams of information about Mr. Shackleton. He would go on an expedition to the Antarctic and he would usually put a little blurb in the newspaper: "Wanted, young men who want adventure, call me." That's basically all it would say. Not much more than that. He would get a crew together that way and he got a loyal following of people that would go year after year whenever he would go to the Antarctic in late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundred. He went without any fanfare except for this one time. What was to be his last trip, the trip on which he had a heart attack and died, he started advertising everywhere. "I'm going to the Antarctic and this is what I'm going to do. And on and on and on." It was an advertising campaign. One of his friends finally came to him and said, "Mr. Shackleton, I understand that you're going to the Antarctic. Everybody seems to know it. You usually don't leave in this manner. Why all the fanfare? Why all the advertising, and the bulletins that are out?" He said, "It's very simple. One of the hands that usually helps me, one of the partners is in deepest Africa. There's no address. He's on an expedition, and I want him to go with me. I believe that if I get the message out that I'm going to the Antarctic again, he will be here." And the man said, "Shack, you have to be kidding. He's in Africa. He's on his own expedition." Just then there was a knock on the door. Standing in the doorway was Jack Wilde. Mr. Wilde said, "I was in Africa and the message reached me that your were going on another expedition. I dropped my rifle and packed up my things and here I am. What are my orders?"

God above, What are my orders? I'll drop whatever I'm doing, wherever I am. Is that our commitment to Jesus Christ? "Well, I don't have the ability." Do we have the ability to do what God asks? I don't think that God would ask somebody to do something without the ability to do it. Word got out that a famous musician was going to play a violin that was priceless. People tried to put a monetary value on it, but nobody could have afforded it. But he was going to play the most priceless violin in the world in concert. People thronged to the concert hall. It was packed. There he stood and he picked up the violin and he started to play the most beautiful music. The hall was in rapture. After he had played this most beautiful complicated piece, he took the violin lovingly in his hands and he threw it to the stage and put his foot right in the middle of it. The crowd gasped. And then a stage had brought him the real priceless violin with which he finished the concert. His point was: In the master's hands even a twenty-dollar fiddle will make good music.

Do you think you're only a twenty-dollar fiddle? It doesn't matter. You're in the Master's hands. He's the one that makes music with whatever tools He chooses. We are God's instruments. But you say, "How can God use me? Why would He even want to? Doesn't He know what I"ve done?" Oh yes, He does. We could even say that about each other. Why them? "I remember when ... No, God will never use them." We can't look at another individual and say how effectively God could use them. They can't say how effectively God could use me. So you ask God, "Why would You want to use me? Surely, you can't be serious. Why would You choose me to do this major task that you have set forth?"

One time God needed a man. He needed a carpenter, somebody that was strong, somebody that was energetic and had enough life in him to save the world from a flood. God chose Noah, who was a farmer, five hundred years old and a drinker of much wine.

God needed a man, a prince capable of governing much, able to save a land from famine. He chose Joseph, a spoiled brat, despised by his brothers, sold as a slave, accused of rape and spent time in prison.

God needed a man, a diplomat, a ruler, a warrior, and eloquent speaker to lead a nation out of bondage. So of course, he chose Moses, an orphan who had a speech impediment, he was a PK, which is a Pharaoh's Kid, and a murderer, and a shepherd. Some leader!

God needed a woman, who knew the ways of a palace, who knew how to entertain foreign dignitaries, who knew how to free a people from bondage. God chose Esther, a simple country girl, raised by a relative, modest, shy, poor, from a minority group.

God needed a man, a warrior to kill a giant, to take the place of a corrupt king and to lead God's people, and of course, God chose David, a mama's boy, a shepherd, spoiled, unethical ways to get his way to say the least.

God needed a prophet, bold fearless, strong character to save Nineveh, so he chose Jonah, lazy, moody, a coward, prejudiced, suicidal, and a certified powder.

God needed a prophet, an example to Babylon of the powers of God. So God chose Daniel, a captive with only three friends to his name, and they were getting themselves into hot situations.

God needed a woman to raise His only begotten Son, somebody with experience and a good reputation, mature in every way. He chose Mary, a teenager, unwed mother, no experience at being a mother, damaged reputation.

God needed a missionary, able to spread the gospel to all kinds of people, one who loved God and thought little of self, somebody that was humble. God chose Saul, chief Pharisee, conceited, vain, overconfident and a murderer of God's people.

God needed a man in a man's world to get the people back to the scriptures again. Somebody strong, somebody powerful, somebody with education and good health. He chose a teen-age girl, third grade education, sickly, Ellen White.

God needs a people that will not be bought or sold, who in their inmost souls are true and honest, who are as true to duty as the needle to the pole. Who will stand for the right though the heavens fall, a people who will preach the gospel to the world, bringing the lost to Jesus. God chose you. "Why Stand ye gazing?"

I've been married for about five years. Susan was about to go to her folks to visit them. That was a rather traumatic experience for me. We weren't used to being apart and she had just begun to carry our first-born. I didn't want to see her go, because there's something about the first pregnancy that seems to make a woman go and see her mother. We lived in south Georgia and her parents lived in Indiana. We booked a flight that would fly out of Augusta. I was kind of moody, "you're going to be gone, and what am I going to do. We drove the hour and a half to the airport and were chit-chatting all the way. And I'm dreading the drive back because I'll be by myself. "I'll just have to turn the radio up and forget about this."

I got her to the airport. The Augusta airport is rather small. You have to go outside and walk out on q sidewalk to get to the plane. You stayed behind a chain-link fence under an awning while waiting at the gate. There we said our "good-byes" and she walked to the airplane. I watched her walk up the ramp and I tried to see in the windows to see where she would sit. The plane took off and everybody was waving good-bye and it was night-time. Finally people were leaving and I was the only one left as the plane took off. I was just standing there watching the person I loved most go up and up an up. And I watched until I couldn't see the jet any more. When I looked down there was a little old black man standing there, a broom in one hand and a dustpan in the other, scooping up cigarette butts chewing gum wrappers. He was staring at me. When I looked in his eyes, the words that came into my mind were, "Why stand ye gazing?" What was going through his mind was, "Get alive buddy, she's gone." But I saw, "Why stand ye gazing? Get out of here. Go to work.' And that's what I did. While she was gone I got more work done than you could believe. I visited more people, I gave more bible studies, I was praying that somebody would go to the hospital so I'd have something to do. I worked around the house. I worked in the house, getting it ready for her return. And the time flew by. She came back in like manner as she had gone.

Have you waited too long for Jesus to return? His return will be even more amazing than His departure. So, "Why stand ye gazing?" Work for the night is coming. Work to make the time fly by. If you want Him to haste His coming, it will hasten in your own mind if you're working toward that end. Then we can look forward to hearing the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter in to the gates of the city."

Hymn of Praise: #27, Rejoice, Ye Pure in heart
Scripture: Acts 1:9-11
Hymn of Response: #365,  O Zion Haste 

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