Sermon delivered January 31, 2004 by Kevin Costello, Georgia/Cumberland Conference Treasurer

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Life's Defining Moments

The message for us is brought to us by Kevin Costello, a Pathfinder's Pathfinder. He's been the Pathfinder director of three different conferences. He is the Assistant Camp Director for the Oshkosh Camporee. Currently, his job is treasurer of the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.

A very good morning to you. I was amazed at how many of you stood up when asked how many of you have been Pathfinders. Let me share something with you. I'm not telling you something you as a church do not know. To run a club of this size and this magnitude, the staff you have is very special. The work they do with your young people involves things that you'll never know about. It involves hours and hours of countless preparation meetings and getting ready for those camp-outs, in getting ready for those times out. You know, the hours of dedication goes behind any one them being leaders, and especially for being the director. It's just not believable. And the amount of work that goes into this day (Pathfinder Day in Church) is likewise not believable. You have a very special person in Pam (Tuttle). Well done, Pam. These are true testaments of the work you do. Thank you so very much.

I'm so glad to be here today. I'm glad to be able to share with you just little bit a few minutes. Elder Swafford, conference Pathfinder director sends his greetings to you. He wishes he could be here today. He is leading a group to Kenya, Africa. Please keep him in your prayers.

This morning I would like to share with you a story that is may be familiar to you. It's about a little girl named Kassy. Kassy was born in the mid-west. Are there any Kassys here today? Kassy was born in the mid-west. She was a typical kid. Here parents, of course, loved her. She had blonde hair, blue eyes. As a kid, she was pretty much a straight A student. She enjoyed lots of things. Most of all she enjoyed life. And as she grew older, the fifth, the sixth, the seventh grade, she did well.

But something happened in the eighth grade. Something happened that turned Kassy's life on a different path. Her parents thought that it might be her friends. They didn't know, but she was definitely involved with the wrong crowd. She didn't smile as often. She wasn't as happy or fun to be around. She'd get home in the afternoon and in the past she'd run to her mom and hug her "hello" and say "Hi' to her dad when he got home. Lately she wold go in and put a book down on the table and mom would say, "Hi, honey. How was school?" "Fine." And she'd head on up to her room and shut the door and that was all they would hear of Kassy until suppertime.

One day, her mom and dad were thinking about just how much Kassy's life seemed to be turning around. And her mom decided to do something to change Kassy's life in a sense, and that is she went into her room when Kassy was gone and noticed some letters that happened to be there that talked about Kassy's involvement in things like witchcraft, and her involvement, there were occasional parties and some things she shouldn't be doing that were going on at those occasional parties. And Kassy's life had definitely taken a downward spiral. In fact, there was even talk in some of those letters about suicide. This was all in the ninth grade.

Her mom, Misty, decided there must be something that she could do. She and her dad visited and talked and they decided that what they would do was pretty radical. They took her out of one school she was in and they moved her over across town and put her in another school. And they also basically told she could no longer hang out with any of her friends, that she needed to pretty much make new friends, and the only involvement she could have was at youth groups and at young people's programs. It's pretty drastic, isn't it?

Well, as you can imagine this soured Kassy all the more. It did not cause a more loving and endearing relationship between her and mom and dad. In fact, they were pretty upset with one another for quite a little while. It didn't go over quite so well when she had to change schools and change the life that she had been used to.

Kassy would mope. She would wander about the house. But one day, there was a camp-out scheduled. It was a Friday afternoon. Kassy decided it was better to hang around the house. She really didn't have any interest or any desire to go on this camp-out, but nevertheless, she got her stuff together and she threw her stuff in the car. Mom drove her to the church parking lot where the school bus was parked that was going to take them on the camp-out. Mom said goodbye and she sort of said goodbye and she took her bags and her stuff out of the back seat and made her way onto the school bus.

I don't know what happened on that camp-out. I wish I knew some of the details that went on. All that I know is the way that Kassy described it later on.

On Sunday, Mom pulled up to that same church parking lot and watched as the bus unloaded all of the kids. Kassy got her stuff and came bounding across the parking lot and threw her arms around mom and gave her the greatest and biggest hug you'd ever see. Mom was totally astounded. They got in the car, and the first thing that Kassy said was, "Mom, you won't believe what happened on the camp-out! I gave mu life to Jesus." And then she said something else. She says, "Mom, I know that you may think that this is probably just something quick that is going by, but I am serious and you're going to see a change in my life, starting today because I turned my life over to Jesus."

You see, while Kassy was at that camp-out she had something called, a life-defining-moment. There was a sparkle, there was something that happened in an instant of time that caused everything that Kassy had known up to that time to be turned upside down, and at that very moment, whatever it was, I don't know whether it was what the pastor had said on the camp-out. I don't know whether it was the songs. Or what the counselor's might have said. I don't know what happened, but something sparked in Kassy's life, and she, for that very reason alone, gave her life to the Lord. She truly had a life-defining-moment.

Friends, I would suggest to you that Pathfinders exist for life-defining-moments. I would suggest to you that if ... Quite frankly, I'm going to be honest with you. If we're just a boy scout troop or girl scout troop, with slightly different uniforms, we need to abandon it. You might be surprised that I'm saying that. I'll be honest with you: the boy scout and the girl scouts do a wonderful job. Why try to re-duplicate exactly what they're doing? If that's what we're about, we need to just abandon it. Really, there are things that are similar. But if we're not headed in the right direction, if we're not showing our young people that Pathfinders is about a mission, then we're missing the boat. And truly, indeed we are! In Pathfinders, lives are changed. Do you agree with that?

Kassy went on and proved to her mom over and over again how different her life... Of course she had mistakes, and trials along the way, but how different her life had become from that day forward until the end of the ninth grade.

You know this story. In fact, we read about it. Thank you very much for reading about it. In Daniel 3. Let me share with you Kevin's revised version if I might:

There was to be a great big dedication service. The notices had gone out far and wide. They went throughout all of the known world at the time. Famous people, all the stars, all of the celebrities from all over the world showed up at that big day on the plain of Dura. Can you see it now when you came in? This great big huge plain, probably bigger than Camp Hope. I don't know, but just maybe, and that was three miles from end to end, who knows how big the plain of Dura was. But at one end was this huge golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar. And people began filing in. Hundreds, thousands of people. Coming from all over the known world. This was the big event! There were governors and princes and kings and ambassadors and all sorts of royalty. And they even had satraps, I don't even know what a satrap is, but they came. They all filed in to the plain of Dura.

Imagine you were there. Imagine you're standing there, looking, and you see the orchestra and you see them all gathered there together and a herald come up and he stands before the microphone and he tells all the congregation, the audience,,, he tells all the audience ahead of time; he says, when you hear the orchestra play you're to bow down. People pressed against each other and they al gathered together in a great big human crowd. Some of them toward the front watched, but some of the people in the back couldn't even see.

The orchestra conductor raised his baton. Can't you just see it now, the trumpets lifted, all the music was all ready and on the down stroke when the trumpets began to blow, when the orchestra began to play, every single person across this huge plain of people bowed down. The governor, the kings, the princes, the ambassadors, all the people that were there, everybody that was there came singly to bow down before this great statue. Everybody, that is, except for Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Now, when you're standing up and every body else is bowing down, do you think you might stand out a little in the crowd? I'll bet they stuck out like three sore thumbs.

The were obviously misplaced. But three young men because of what they believed was right, no matter what. They were standing up for what they believed was right. Do you think Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego wanted to be there that day? I'll bet if they knew what was going to happen they voted to be anywhere else but there that morning.

Among all those who bowed down there were a lot of heathen there. I'll be honest with you. You'd expect the heathen to bow down wouldn't you? But there were a lot of Hebrews there. Those Hebrew men, those Hebrew women that were on that plain knew better. They knew better. They knew that they should "have no other gods before Me." And yet as that music played, everyone of them compromised their principles. They compromised what they believed what was right. Maybe they looked around to see what everybody else was doing. "I'd better just get down a little bit further." Maybe one of them might have even said, "You know what? I'm going to get down and I'm going to pray to God. I won't pray to that idol, but ..." Whatever reason, whatever justification went on in their minds. Only three people that day stood up for what they knew was right: Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.

Those three boys, those teenagers had a life-defining-moment that day. Everything they knew got turned on end. That day they were singled out of the crowd and they were brought to the front of this huge mass of people. Can't you see Nebuchadnezzar standing there, and when he realized it was them he recognized them. "What are they doing? They're part of my court." And so Nebuchadnezzar says, "I'll tell you what, guys, O wouldn't do this for anyone else. I'll tell you what I'm going to do. Just for you, I'll talk to the orchestra conductor and I'm going to ask him to start the music all over again. We'll do it just for the three of you. If you go ahead and bow down in front of everybody else, everything will be okay and we'll forget this ever happened."

"Oh, great king, we will never bow down before you." That must have taken some courage to say that.

Now, I don't know how you make a fire seven times hotter, but that's what Nebuchadnezzar did. And we know and we understand how Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were willing to give their lives - for what? To stand up for God? No matter what, as Job would have said, "Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him." They were willing to give up their lives. Three teenagers just willing to lay it down now, all because they believed in a principle.

And the guard bound their hands and their feet, picked them up and threw them bodily into this fiery furnace. And there was death that day, but it was of the guards that threw them in.

Can you imagine the scene as you're all standing there? And you all looking and Shadrach Meshach and Abed-Nego, who'd been thrown inside get upright and start walking around. But you know there were only three people that got thrown in there and you look and you see there's Shadrach, and Meshach and Abed-Nego there but God's in their midst. "I will never leave you. I will never leave you nor forsake you." God was in their midst.

truly those young boys had a life-defining-moment. They came to a crossroads in their life and they had to make a decision. "Do I stand for what I know is right, or do I do what everybody else is doing?"

Acts 5:1-11. You know this story also. You've heard about it. Ananias and Sapphira. Mr. Ananias had sold some property. He did a good job. He made quite a bit of money on this sale. He had promised. I don't know if they had a building fund or what. He promised the proceeds of that sale is all going to go to the church. One day, Peter is standing in front of the church, maybe visiting with some of his deacon or elders. All of a sudden, in walks Mr. Ananias, and he walks in and he walks right up to the front of the church and he takes this bag that is full of money and he plops it right down on the table. "Here's the money that I promised you." And Peter said, ""Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit? And keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?" Now here was Ananias seemingly doing a good thing, or it would seem so on the outside. Ananias was obviously one who followed God. And yet when it came down to the crucial moment whether to tell the truth, when it came down to the crucial moment to stand up for what is right, no matter what, he kept a part of what he had promised to the Lord. Ananias had a life-defining-moment because he fell down dead.

Four deacons carted him off. If they only had a little communication in their family! Because right behind him comes Mrs. Ananias, Sapphira. Peter asks her,"Did you sell the property for so much?" And she said, "Yes, for so much." Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Holy Spirit of the Lord? Look, there are the feet of those who buried your husband come to bury you." And Sapphira followed Ananias out the church doors that day. They had life-defining-moments.

When it came down to the critical moment in life, when it came down when everything was on the line, when they had an opportunity to do right they chose evil. Truly a life-defining-moment.

Story after story we could look at: Abraham; Genesis 22. Abraham had several life-defining- moments earlier where he hadn't quite gotten it. But finally Abraham is a hundred and.... A hundred plus, uh, thirteen or so, maybe more. And he and Isaac have a life-defining-moment together when they head out one morning without waking Sarah. She would not have been too happy. They head out and they head towards the mountain and finally Abraham leaves his staff at the bottom of the mountain with the animals. Isaac and he travel up the mountain by themselves.

Could you imagine what that would have been like when asked, "Dad, you know what? We forgot something. We've got the firewood, and we brought the kindling, and there's the knife. We got everything else, but where's the sacrifice?" What a question. "Where is the sacrifice?" "The Lord will provide." You see, Abraham hadn't followed that same advice for many years of his life. But finally he learned the lesson. "The Lord will provide."

And they get to the top of the mountain. I can imagine Abraham is just a little bit too tired. Not necessarily from the climb after all this time, but I can imagine he sits down on a log and as he sits there, Isaac gets the rock as he has done so many times before. One by one Isaac takes these big rocks and piles them up right where he had done it before. He creates this altar. Then he gets the wood his dad had been carrying, and puts it on the altar just so. He knew how to do it. He had done it so many times. Then he puts the kindling on it and he tucks it under some of the wood just so. Finally he comes back and he says, "Dad, I've done what you told me. But where is the sacrifice?"

Oh, friends, parents, can you even fathom what's going through Abraham's mind right now? As he looks at his son, he says, "Son, you are the sacrifice." Abraham had a life-defining-moment right then. I would suggest that Isaac had just as much a life-defining-moment as Abraham. In fact, I would suggest to you that Isaac's faith was tested just as much as Abraham's. How many of you know a thirteen to fifteen year-old boy that can't outrun a hundred thirteen year-old man? Ellen White tells us that Isaac obediently stood before his father and helped him to bind his hands and feet as Abraham took him and laid him on that altar. Can you imagine the faith that Isaac had? Can you imagine the faith that Isaac had as his dad with his quivering hand raised the knife high above his head and as he's looking up, can you imagine the faith that Isaac had for what Abraham was being tested on. And that hand that was lifted high above Abraham's shoulders with his heart almost totally broken. Oh, for the angel that came a the right second. Abraham had a life-defining-moment that day, and Isaac did too.

One more quick story. He lives here. Maybe you've seen the video about him. Desmond Doss. Desmond Doss who grew up not too far from right here, had a life-defining-moment or more. When young Des entered the Army, frankly, he didn't fit because he wanted Sabbath off. It would have been a lot easier on him. It would have been so much easier. And it would have saved so much grief if he had just gone along with what the Army had said. And, you know what he could have said? "It's required. I can't help it." But Des believed very strongly in two things. One, that he wanted Sabbath off, and two, "Thou shalt not kill." Des believed in serving his country, and served it very faithfully. But he also believed that it was not for him to kill. Des was almost thrown out of the Army several times, almost court-marshaled. All because of what he believed. He took more grief from within the Army than is possibly imaginable.

But Des was there on that day in Okinawa. Des was there on that day, and when everybody else was scared to go up. Company B had to go up on this precipice and they had to go and they had to fight the enemy, and they were losing the battle. A bunch of them had made it back down to safety, but most of them had not. Many of them were wounded upon the top of that precipice. Des, as a medic, asked to go up there to help his fallen brethren. He climbed up on this cargo rope by himself because there was no one else who would go with him. One at a time he went out to the front lines all night long. All night long he grabbed another person, another wounded soldier, and all night long he would bring them back. The people who were catching them were down belong, said that they were coming one per every ten minutes all through the night as Des rescued person after person.

What am I getting at? That didn't happen on that day in Okinawa. That happened long before that day, because, you see, you can't have a life-defining-moment without many moments that have led up to it. The decision you make on the day that you have a life-defining-moment is based on all the decisions that you have made and all the times that really didn't count. All those little times that wasn't really all that important. Those little tiny decisions that you make day in and day out are what you'll do with your life and how you will order your life, lead up to that life-defining-moment. And Des stood there and did what he was supposed to do because of the character that had been built in his life. All those times he had ben ridiculed, all those time he was called all sorts of names, and made fun of because he wouldn't carry a weapon, all those times when he wanted off on Sabbath when no one else got it. All of a sudden, all those times led to the character in Des's life where he was abel to perform acts that he couldn't even do on his own.

You see, when you have a life-defining-moment, you're not alone. When you have the time, when you have to stand up for God, and I believe there is a time in all of our lives when we have to make a decision for God. When you have that time, when you have to stand up for God, you're not alone. We saw that in Daniel. The angels of heaven and Jesus are with you in that decision. When you have a life-defining-moment it's a moment that is special if you follow the Spirit that's inside of you.

You never have to worry in a life-defining-moment on what decision you'll make. You don't have to sit and scratch your head and think, "You know what? What if I were there? What decision would I have made?" The reason you don't is because if you're making the daily decisions and following Christ when it doesn't really make that huge a difference seemingly. But when you have that life-defining-moment, it'll be no big deal.

The other thing about a life-defining-moment is if you could do anything else you'd do it. I guarantee that Desmond Doss did not want to be on that battlefield that day. I guarantee you that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego did not want to be there that day, neither did Abraham or Isaac. But the thing about a life-defining-moment is you can't predict when it will arrive. And when it does arrive, it will catch you by surprise unless you've dedicated your life and your heart to Christ. As we finish up, I want to go back to Kassy. Kassy Bernal. Some of you know about Kassy because she gave her life to Christ that day in ninth grade. Since then, life was getting better and better until one day in the eleventh grade, two years later, 1999. And Kassy, as she had become accustomed to was now hanging around with Christian friends. Although she went to public school, she took her Bible with her every day. And she had her Bible that particular day sitting on top of all her other books. She was studying for a test in the library when in walked Eric Harris.

All mayhem broke lose that day in the library in Littleton, Colorado in 1999. But when Eric Harris approached Kassy, witnesses would later tell, he asked her a very specific question. He asked her, "Do you really believe in God?" Witnesses say that Kassy hesitated for just a second because she knew that she was in a life-defining-moment. She knew that her answer could well cost her her life. And she said, "Yes, I totally believe in God." Just before Eric pulled the trigger. Kassy was a martyr that day in Littleton. She stood up for God, no matter what. Later on when her parents were asked, "Well, you know, you switched schools on her and everything else happened. Do you regret doing all that? Or she'd been in another school. This would never have taken place.." They said, "Oh, my. No we don't regret it because we know that Kassy died loving God. We know that Kassy died standing up for God, and there's no way that would have happened before." While Kassy will be missed, she stood up for what she believed in, in that God defining, life-defining-moment.

Friends, today, as you leave here, may Pathfinders be all about making those little tiny decisions that really seem very insignificant. We have a plaque that says, "You are what you are when no one else can see." I would suggest to you, "The world's greatest need, The greatest want in the world is the want of men, men and women, Pathfinders today, if you will, who will not be bought or sold. Men, who in their inmost souls are true and honest. Men who do not fear to call sin by it's right name. Men, whose conscience is true as duty as the needle to the pole. Men who will stand for the right though the heavens may fall." The world's greatest need is the want of men.

I'd like to suggest to you today that a reputation is made in a moment; a character is made in a lifetime. Today may you have a day that will lead you to making the right decision if/when you have a life-defining-moment.

Hymn of Praise: #506, A Mighty Fortress
Scripture: Daniel 3:15-18

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