JUICY FRUIT SERMON SERIES
NOVEMBER 3, 1996
If you are sitting in an aisle and you are to my right, look under your theater seat because you will see a green bag. The green bag looks like this. Now you are the row chairmen, the row presidents. Take out a piece of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum if you will and pass it to your right. Do not eat the gum please. Make sure that everyone has a stick of gum. Now once it gets to the end of the row, listen since it is important for the other services. Don’t take all the gum, just one piece and put the bag with the remaining Juicy Fruit beneath the seat for use later on. Does everyone have a stick of gum?
Now together, let’s open it up and pop it into our mouths. Feel that blast of Juicy Fruit flavor? Great. However, I have got some grim news for gum chewers. After about eight minutes, yes, I have timed it, after about eight minutes, the taste dissipates, it is gone. Then you get tired of the monotony of chewing up and down, up and down, up and down. It becomes boring and you look for a place to discard your gum. It is amazing how many creative places are chosen for that purpose. We toss it out of windows. We put it in parking lots. We stick it under chairs and tables. We dare not swallow it because it will stay in our stomach for seven years. You know that. What is so hilarious is that the folks at Wrigley’s know in advance that their gum is going to lose its taste. You will see on the yellow packaging in little black letters, Keep foil wrapper to put gum in after use. They know it doesn’t work.
I thought this week how great it would be if the people at Wrigley’s could invent a gum that would never lose its flavor. I am talking about the ultimate piece of Juicy Fruit. The Bible describes a juicy fruit that never loses its flavor. Galatians 5:22-23 says “The fruit of the spirit…”, in other words, the real juicy fruit, “… is faithfulness.” Unfortunately, scores and scores of us can recall the bad taste of unfaithfulness that permeates our lives. The broken marital contract, the violated vow, the backstabbing friend. We hate unfaithfulness. We want to discard it, to throw it away like some chewed up gum because we desire to live a life of faithfulness. We want the flavor of faithfulness to permeate everything we touch. But if we are honest with ourselves and look around our culture, we see that faithfulness is fading just like a stick of Juicy Fruit gum.
That is why Solomon’s words are so pertinent to our culture. Proverbs 20:6. “A faithful man, who can find?” We all have to struggle to recall someone who has been in a 35 year marriage. We have got to think really hard to find a person who has had a 15-year friendship, or a man or woman who has been with a company for 30 years. The flavor of faithfulness is fading. And the reason it is fading is because it takes a lot. It takes courage. It takes commitment. It takes discipline. It takes integrity to carry it out. Faithfulness.
Faithfulness means that you stick with the project even after the shine has worn off. Faithfulness means you blast through a relational quitting point even though every fiber in your being is screaming for you to bail out. Faithfulness means that you stick to your word, no matter what the cost. Faithfulness means that you stay true to your relationship with Jesus Christ no matter how much peer pressure comes your way. Faithfulness. It is gone. We don’t see very much of it.
Unfaithfulness looms large in our world today. It takes a mound of legal documents just to do a simple business transaction. The heck with handshakes. You had better get it in writing, get it notarized, make triplicate copies, put it in the vault and keep an attorney on retainer if you want to do something really great in the business world. Faithfulness is fading.
We want to become people of faith but in and of ourselves, we can’t do it. Living an autonomous lifestyle or living in a very self-sufficient way will not really cut it. We cannot be the kind of faithful people we desire to be. If you are like me, I marvel at my lack of faithfulness. I will hear a message or experience a drama or song and say, “OK, God, this is it. I am going to turn from that in my life and not struggle with it any longer. I am going to be your man.” And then three days later I find myself struggling with the same situation, struggling with my lack of faith, with unfaithfulness. Can you identify with that?
The great news today is that we have not been left alone. Galatians 5:22-23 says “…the fruit of the spirit is faithfulness.” You see God loves you and loves me so much He can’t stand the tastelessness of unfaithfulness that permeates our lives so here is what He did. He takes it upon Himself to transform you and me from unfaithful human beings into faithful human beings. I wish I could tell you it is as easy as unwrapping a piece of Juicy Fruit gum and popping it in your mouth. But it is not that easy. It is a difficult process. It will take everything you have. But God is faithful. God is supernatural. God is in the change process. And the Bible promises us that the moment we make a faith decision and ask Jesus Christ to come into our lives, the first thing He does is place the person of the Holy Spirit within us. He will delegate to the Holy Spirit the responsibility to transform us, to turn us, to alter us and to change us into faithful human beings.
If we surrender to the Lord, if we bow the knee to the Holy Spirit of God, He will do it. He will come through every time because God is reliable. God is trustworthy. God is faithful.
I want to show you how this process works. The first thing that the Holy Spirit does in our lives concerning faithfulness is, He reminds us and reveals to us the faithfulness of God. The Holy Spirit does that. He will kind of elbow you and elbow me and tell us to look at the fruit, the real fruit that God produces. He is faithful, so why don’t you be faithful.
I think back to my childhood because I grew up in the church. I pretty much cut my teeth on the pew. As a kid I remember the great hymns of the church. You just heard one, Great Is Thy Faithfulness. What a wonderful song. The words come from the book of Lamentations 3:22-23. Jeremiah had an achy-breaky prophetic heart. He was singing the blues. But I am gong to tell you something. Jeremiah, in the midst of mourning over Israel, says these words. “His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.” Jeremiah said that. If you study the life of David, he had some hair-raising adventures early in his life. As he got older, he began to write the book of Psalms. One of the major themes of the book of Psalms is the faithfulness of God.
I met a beautiful girl when I was 14 years of age. Her name is Lisa. She is now my wife. We would always sit in the balcony, kind of away from my father, the preacher. I would have my arm around her, kissing her on the cheek from time to time, believe it or not. And I loved church. I enjoyed church. About once a month the music director would walk up and say, “Let’s turn in our hymnals to that great hymn of the church, Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” The organ would start. While the people sang, I would just kind of mouth the words. But I noticed something, even as an adolescent. The people who would really sing this with gusto were the elderly in the church. They would sing from the depths of their souls, “great is thy faithfulness, thy hand hath provided.” I wondered why they would sing so loud and with such conviction. This week I finally figured it out. These elderly saints had experienced thousands and thousands of answers to prayer. They had experienced the Holy Spirit comforting them and loving them in times of divorce, in times of struggle, in times of trial. So they had a lot of God’s trustworthiness under their belts, so to speak. They could sing it with real unction because they knew God was someone they could trust.
Frankly that is one of the reasons that I am so optimistic and fired up about the Fellowship of Las Colinas. Do you realize that most of us here only have a year or two of God’s trustworthiness under our belts? We have traced God’s faithfulness for only a couple of months, but give us ten years and we will be able to sing that with such power that we could blow the roof off the top of the building. That fires me up. I cannot wait to see what God is going to do in my life and your lives. The Holy Spirit is faithful. We will experience a new supernatural power to be faithful.
It is tempting to stop right here and to just shut it down. But I can’t do that because I would leave us hanging. We have got to understand the take home, the application, and the relevancy. Now let’s see how faithfulness plays out.
I define faithfulness like this. Faithfulness is becoming a man or a woman of your word. That is what the Holy Spirit will do. He will keep telling you and me to become a man of our word or a woman of our word. Let’s talk about three major areas we all deal with. First is the area of relationships. The Holy Spirit will help me to become a man and help you to become a man or a woman of your word in your relational world. I want to say a word to the husbands here. If you are a husband, please slip your hand up right quick. Years ago or maybe just months ago, you stood in a shiny polyester suit before God, a preacher and a group of family and friends and you made a vow. You gave your word, men, to honor, to love, to cherish, to submit, to hold your spouse in high esteem. Yes, you might have been mouthing the words just to get to the honeymoon in Cancun, but you said the words. Guess what. Guess what. God holds you to your word. You can’t mess around with vows and covenants especially in the marital domain with a holy God. And if we cooperate with the Holy Spirit of God, we will find a supernatural infusion of faithfulness to love. We will experience a new desire to cherish, a new desire to court and to romance and to love and to pray with our wives. Are you a man of your word in marriage?
Let’s look at the parent-child thing. The number one frustration that parents and children deal with is something called resentment. The cause of resentment is usually broken promises. We say to our children that we will take them fishing next week. Next month we will go to Chuckie Cheese. And the list goes on and on and on. And when the time comes, far too often we don’t follow through with our word. I ask you. How can our children learn how to be promise keepers, covenant keepers and word keepers if they don’t see it modeled and articulated by mom and dad?
Still talking about relationships, how about the friendship factor? We have a lot of friends. Are you loyal to your friends? Are you trustworthy? Are you reliable? Do you keep your word? When you say you are going to pray for them, do you really pray for them? When you say you are going to help them, do you really help them? Again, when we says these words to God, God takes us at our word.
Let’s look at the second big area. Career. We need to become men and women of our word in our careers. In the marketplace certain phrases are sort of standard operating procedure. We say, “The check is in the mail.” “I’ll see to it myself.” Yet when we articulate those words, most of us don’t really mean them. We rationalize to ourselves that everyone does it, that it is necessary to tell the client or customer what they want to hear. The Bible calls that unfaithfulness. The Bible calls it lying. And that is the straight up truth. Yet, if we cooperate with the Holy Spirit and tell the Holy Spirit that we want to become a man or a woman in the marketplace, the next time you say that the check is in the mail – wham. He is going to give you a body shot. And you are going to find yourself saying that the check is not in the mail, that you won’t be able to deliver the check for another 10 days. Or the next time you say that you will take care of it yourself, the Holy Spirit will nudge you and remind you of God’s faithfulness. Then you will say that it will not really be you but someone else in the company.
What would happen if 3,500 people who attend the Fellowship of Las Colinas on a given weekend got serious about keeping our word in the marketplace. What would happen to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and to companies around the world as a result of our honesty and integrity and commitment? If you read anything about business you will see lying and unfaithfulness costs businesses billions of dollars a year. What a challenge. What a motivation. Become a man or woman who keeps his or her word in the marketplace.
The third big area that the Bible challenges us on is to become a man or woman of our word with God. God never lies to us. He tells the truth to us. God tests us in three places. He tests us with time. We all have a certain amount of time and time is a gift to us from a Holy God. He wants us to become great stewards of the minutes that he has entrusted to us. How are you doing with your time? Are you just saying that you are so busy you don’t know which way to go? Some of us have a warped view of time, kind of like my son EJ. He is four. I asked him last week what time he usually went to bed. He said he went to bed at twenty-thirty. I said there was no such thing as twenty-thirty. Yet, when we think about our schedule, we think we can compartmentalize our lives and reserve time for God. We say that at twenty-thirty we will do that for God. A lot of us are going to have to refuse a lot of things to be the kind of people God wants us to be. We are going to have to simplify, to downscale in order to do what God desires for us. How are you doing with your time? Believers, if you don’t give Jesus Christ some serious moments every day, there is no way you can multiply your life aside from Him actively involved in your life. So if you elbow Him out, if you do the Heisman trophy thing and keep Him away, you are going to become busier and busier and busier. Spinning out of control, one day you will look up and ask what is wrong with you. Yet, if you give Jesus Christ the first moments of every day, He will multiply your time.
Many here are going to have to say no to some things and yes to some more important things. Prioritize your life. Time and schedules. God tests us that way. God has given it to you. What are you going to do with it? The two biggest time wasters we deal with happen to be regret and worry. We regret things from the past. “Oh, if only I could change that from my childhood. Oh, if I could only relive what happened last week, I would do it differently.” And that is one of my major struggles. I am the worst at regret.
A couple of days ago, I did something in a public manner while I was speaking and I thought it was OK. But afterward, I realized that I had not really thought about what I was saying. I felt I hadn’t really used the time like God would have wanted. I wasted about two hours thinking about how I blew it, that I didn’t make sense, that I was stupid. Well, I should have done that for about a minute, but then gone on living my life. Regret will eat away your time. Also, worry is the second thing that will eat your lunch. Worry about the future, about tomorrow, what if, what if. So, time is a test of our faith.
God also tests our faith in another zone. He tests it with the talents that He has given us. We all have abilities and gifts. I have got them and you have got them. You have stuff that you can do that I can’t do. I have stuff that I can do that you can’t do. Isn’t that great? Unique talents. Some have one, some have two and some have ten. God has made an investment in your life and mine. Most of us have invested our money in one way or another. When we invest our money, we want a return on our money, a return on our investment. God has invested gifts and talents in your life and mine and He wants a return on the investment. What is your gift? What is your ability? What is your talent? Usually, it is where your interests lie. Usually, it is the way you are naturally wired up. We are so serious about this and the Bible is so serious about this that we have a course called Discovering My Ministry that helps you along this path.
For example, two of my strongest gifts happen to be the gift of leadership and the gift of communication. God has given me those gifts. Now I could just thank God for those gifts, tell Him that I love Him and that I will see Him in about 60 years when I die. God doesn’t want that. If that was the scene, He could just zap me to heaven right now. God wants me to give back to Him, as an act of worship, the development and the utilization of those gifts to the best of my ability. That is a living act of worship. As I develop my gift of leadership and my gift of speaking, then God is praised and He sees a return on His investment. Far too many of us are just sitting around with our gifts and abilities. But God says to get off our spiritual duffs and utilize and develop our gifts. That is why we have so many areas of involvement here at Fellowship. Our giftedness is a test from God, a faith test.
Another area that God tests us in is the area of finances. I want you to take your wallets out. Now give your wallet to the person sitting next to you. You might not know this person but give it anyway. The ushers will now take the offering. Nah, you know I am joking. Give the wallets back. I did that to illustrate this for you. Our money is not our money. My money is not my money. Your money is not your money. It is God’s money. God has given us everything. He has given us time, talents and also treasure. It is God’s. God tests us with the money. He wants us to become great stewards of our money. How are you doing financially? Are you living below what you take in? Or you living by the 80-20 principle? Are you living on 80 percent, saving 10 percent and giving the other 10 percent to the local church? That is a minimum of what God requires us to do. Many of us here have been blessed in a great way financially. Ten percent should be a lay-up. We should give way more than that to the church. And we should also save way more than 10 percent. Every time the offering plate is passed, it is a faith test. Every time a bill comes in it is a faith test. Do you pay your bills on time? If you are drowning in a sea of debt right now and not doing anything about it, that is a poor example to others who want to see what Jesus Christ means in your life. It is a test, financially.
We can go on and on and on talking about tests of faithfulness. But there is one thing that motivates me in ministry like none other. Yes, I am motivated by the people that our church is reaching. Yes, I am motivated by where we are going. Yes, I am motivated because God has given us the freedom to be creative here with the Biblical message. But there is one thing that really drives me. I know one day that I am going to meet Jesus face to face. He is going to look in my eyes and He is going to ask me one question. He is going to ask, “Ed, where is the Juicy Fruit? Where is the Fruit? Where is it?” And I want Jesus to say to me what He promises that He will say to some of us. I want Him to look into my eyes and simply say this. “Ed, well done. You are a good and faithful servant.” That is my dream. That is my prayer. I know that is your dream and your prayer too. Let’s go out and produce Juicy Fruit.