Too Busy to Stop and Look

In Sermon Ideas by Rachel Schultz

Too Busy to Stop and Look


Key PassageI will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.Ezekiel 11

Key Thought: Blind spots might require more than minor adjustments; God may need to give us an entirely new life philosophy. As we refocus our lives on service and the needs of others, He will bless us with a renewed compassion quotient.

Mission Illustration: The Adventist Church runs an orphanage hidden in the hills of Northern Thailand, near a small town called Maetang. When Christian visitors stop by, the kids are capable of putting on quite a show. First, tribal dances from the various hill groups of that region. Then they flawlessly sing in various tribal dialects, including the newest praise songs from America and Australia like Shout to the Lord.

But then ten of these children will stand up in a row, and without batting an eye, recite the Beatitudes from Matthew 5. Then all of First Corinthians 13, the great “Love Chapter.”  Then the Ten Commandments, followed by all of Psalm 19. They just go on and on, chapter after chapter. They know the Bible cold, whole chunks of it. When you’re in the hills without cable or Internet access, you have time to hide God’s Word in your heart, as recommended in Psalm 119. And will it make a difference in their lives, as those children grow up, hopefully move into loving homes, and become the Christians of the next generation? The Bible says in Proverbs 3:1: “My son, do not forget My teaching, but keep My commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years AND bring you prosperity.”

Blind Spots and a New Model: One careening taxi ride in Bangkok—on the wrong side of the road, passing where they shouldn’t, changing lanes at will—makes us appreciate the dilemma of blind spots. Here is just one more related metaphor: true, sometimes we need better mirrors. Or cleaner windows. But it might even be true that we need a whole new body design. Car manufacturers have been known to take a faulty design and say to the engineers, “Look, this can’t be fixed just by turning the mirror five degrees. With that blind spot off to the right, we’re setting ourselves up for a flood of seven-figure lawsuits. Now just go back and fix it so the driver can see who’s in the next lane over.”

Heart of Flesh: Maybe you’re floundering in your faith and feel like that young New Testament rebel named Saul, who was actually blinded by the light of God’s power. What you need isn’t really a spiritual “tweak” or slight adjustment, but a whole new body design. The Bible promises in Ezekiel 11: “I will remove from them their heart of stone,” says God, the great body-design specialist, “and give them a heart of flesh.”

I have met new Christians where I truly believed they fulfilled the triumphant statement of Jesus in Revelation 21: “Behold, I make all things new!”

Traffic Jam: Often our blind spots don’t just hurt us, they tie up the freeway for everyone else too. Oftentimes, a person who veers into a blind spot sends another family grieving to the cemetery. That’s the tragic nature of sin. The innocent are hurt right along with the guilty; in fact, so often they’re hurt even more. You abruptly change lanes and sail innocently off into the sunset, not seeing the ten-car pileup you caused back there on the Interstate.

Bible Illustration: There’s a tragic Old Testament story found in Judges 11, where a warrior named Jephthah was in a battle against the armies of Ammon. One day he rashly vowed that if God gave them the victory, he would sacrifice the very first thing that came out of the front door to greet him when he got home. What a rash, unwise thing to say!

Lo and behold, when they triumphed and return back home, his pretty teen-aged daughter—an only child—comes dancing out the front door, tambourine in hand. And here this foolish man is “bound” by a moronic promise he should never have made.

The critical point is this: He has a blind spot about God’s character and about integrity. His spiritual intuition is so crusted over, he actually goes ahead and compounds his mistake by fulfilling that evil pledge. Bible scholars debate whether he actually sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering, killing her . . . or maybe just forced her to live a life of celibate virginity. But instead of saying, “I was foolish; I was wrong. No way am I going to go ahead and do this evil thing,” he follows up one blind-spot decision with a second one, and who gets hurt? His innocent child.

Who Pays the Price: Going back to that mountainside orphanage in Thailand, why are so many of those children without parents? Often because Mom or Dad died of AIDS. Tragically, this country is the child-prostitution capital of the world, perhaps also the sex-tourism capital of the world, and there are thousands of babies now, many with the HIV virus too, who will never know their natural parents. Someone on infamous Patpong Road, the red-light territory of Bangkok, had a blind spot about the go-go bars, the girlie clubs, the one-night stands, and now the children help pay the price, down to the third and fourth generation, the Bible plainly tells us.

A Blind Spot of Busyness: In Becoming a Contagious Christian, Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg describe how many believers get into a blind spot where they’re just too busy. In their chapter, “The Pull of Compassion,” they discuss a concept called your “compassion quotient.”  “In the ebb and flow of my life, I can always tell I’ve let my schedule get out of whack when I find myself routinely passing up chances to express compassion because I simply lack the energy or time. But when I consciously take steps to bring down the pace of my life, I find time and again that both my desires and my opportunities to show love and mercy to others naturally increase.”

Can you see yourself right there? If we’re too busy, or too stressed out at work, or too fixated on our own pleasures and hobbies and sports, then needy people around us are just plain in the blind spot. We don’t even see them; we don’t sense their hurt. We go right by them, or we can’t see how a ten-dollar gift could help that person because we’re saving that ten dollars to spend on our new tennis socks.

Compassion Story: Hybels and his wife, Lynne, were in a restaurant one morning. The waitress looked like she was really struggling for some reason, fighting back tears almost. Finally, Bill, wanting to NOT let her anonymously slip into his own big-shot-pastor-at-Willow-Creek blind spot, went up to her. “Can I help you in any way?” he asked quietly. She stopped cold, not expecting this. “No,” she said, “but thanks. Thank you so much.”  Then she explained. “My former husband is coming today to get my 15-year-old daughter. I’m not going to get to see her again for six months, and it’s hard. It’s really hard.”

Bill put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m so sorry. I know I can’t do anything to change the situation, but I really feel sad for you. My wife and I are over at that table if you want to talk or pray, or if we can help in any way, but I just wanted you to know we care, and I wish we could help in some way.” And that was it. He went back and finished his breakfast. Did that marriage get back together? No. Was the parting later that day any easier? Probably not. Did the lady jump right in her car, go over to his church and become a born-again Christian believer? There’s no evidence that she did. But as Bill and Lynne paid the check a few minutes later, the waitress did glance over at them and give a little nod. That little moment of connecting did make a difference.

Conclusion: Day by day, as we stay focused on keeping hurting people out of our blind spot, and squarely in our vision, we can make a difference for the Lord Jesus Christ. We can bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted, just as He did.

Submitted by David B. Smith. Better Sermons © 2005-2007. Click here for usage guidelines.