Christian Ministry

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:23-2:4, NLT

23 Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke. 24 But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.

 So I decided that I would not bring you grief with another painful visit. For if I cause you grief, who will make me glad? Certainly not someone I have grieved. That is why I wrote to you as I did, so that when I do come, I won’t be grieved by the very ones who ought to give me the greatest joy. Surely you all know that my joy comes from your being joyful. I wrote that letter in great anguish {thlipsis, pressure} , with a troubled heart {synochē, a narrow strait} and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you.

We don’t have an introduction…we are just going to dive into the message without a spring board…

I. THE FOUNDATION OF THE MINISTRY IS A RELATIONSHIP

Obviously, a minister has a relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul echoed this truth in chapter 5...14 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; 15 and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

Paul stated in I Corinthians that he was Corinth’s spiritual father. He was the one who brought the gospel to Corinth and the one who founded the church. Paul had a fatherly relations ship with the church is Corinth.

For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. {I Cor. 4:5}

Being a father myself, I know that this relationship involves a lot of things. There are stages in the relationship where things can be one sided. Paul loved the Corinthians like a father. It was a committed love, an unconditional love but the Corinthians were not loving in their response for all that Paul had done. There was someone in the church [v.5], a man who was anti-Paul and apparently, he had a rather large following. There is no doubt, Paul loved the Corinthian church more than they loved him. Of all the churches he founded, Corinth gave him the most heartache.

Finding a preacher is not that hard these days. There are many gifted pulpiteers our there but find a pastor is a horse of a different color. Until a preacher has invested his life in a particular congregation, he is not going to love them like a father. Any church who has a pastor that loves them is fortunate.

II. THE CHALLENGE OF MINISTRY IS TELLING THE TRUTH IN LOVE

Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke. [1:23]

Using the same analogy [Father and child], a part of a Father’s responsibility is to be honest with his children. Everyone needs someone in their life who loves them enough to tell them the truth.

How does a child grow and mature? How does a football player improve his game? How do we grow in Christ?  We all need someone to hold us accountable, someone to challenge our thinking, someone who will tell us the truth in love. No one is what they think they are: your perception of yourself is not accurate. You cannot see your back side. Others have a totally different opinion of who you are: we all need correction, sometimes rebuke, we need admonishment and encouragement.

I had a seminary professor take a slight interest in my life. The man proved his sincerity by helping me graduate early. I was on campus two and one half years where as it takes three years to graduate. He took it upon himself to let me finish my last class as a Seminar, this meant more work for him, far less time and expense for me. Toward the end of my class he felt confident in talking to me about my weaknesses, the areas where I need vast improvement. I have never resented this man’s comments because I was confident that he was trying to help me. We all need coaching and accountability.

Paul was not afraid to speak the truth which was exactly what Corinth needed. Some old friends from a former pastorate dropped in to see me this past week. I asked them about one woman in particular and they told me that she was not doing well which is what I feared. This woman was very straight laced and some what of a pharisee. She did not understand why I preached depravity. She believed that everyone has inherent goodness and that in some cases, the good far exceeds the bad. This is contrary to scripture that teaches all have sinned and come [exceedingly] short of the perfection we see in Jesus. When I talked about death and hell deserving sinners, she was offended.

I loved the woman and my goal was never to offend her but I had to preach the truth. After I left the church and moved to our present place of service, she told someone, “I loved Bro. Jack but he never said anything good about us.” I may have been guilty of too much truth without enough love. To much rebuke without enough encouragement.

I’ve been in the ministry for 45 years and only once have I been asked to preach on stewardship. I do preach on the subject but not because it is popular but because it is the truth. No one will be helped spiritually if I tickle ears and stroke egos. 

III.THE GOAL OF MINISTRY IS SYNERGY [Working together]

24 But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together [synergos] with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.

Total domination destroys synergy [working together]. Paul did not want to lord over them or dominate them, he wanted to work together with them. If I could pass along one word of advice to husbands and pastors it would be this: do not attempt to be dominating. Total domination may exalt you but it will be at the expense of other and your long term goal.

Synergy is not my way or your way but a better way that can only be achieved by us working together. So much more will be accomplished by working together than by one person dominating and commanding. You always know that a church has become a cult when the dominate leader is the focus. Some people praise their pastor more than they do Jesus. Folks, we are to promote Jesus, not earthly leaders.

IV. THE FRUIT OF MINISTRY IS JOY

[2 Cor. 2:3] That is why I wrote to you as I did, so that when I do come, I won’t be grieved by the very ones who ought to give me the greatest joy. Surely you all know that my joy comes from your being joyful. 

This is not rocket science: an average leader will accomplish more than a highly gifted leader if he has a congregation that is willing to work together. Moses was an outstanding leader but he did not have a congregation which was willing to work together. Thus Moses had more grief than joy. Team work creates enthusiasm. People are always happier when they feel a part of the team, when they know they contribute. We cannot win by disenfranchising people.

Hebrews 13:17– Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.

The Israelite’s gave Moses sorrow rather than joy. They were anything but obedient: their were stiff necked and obstinate. They not only hurt Moses, they hurt themselves.

Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Dwyane Wade, Carlos Bozer, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Emeka Okafor, Shawn Marion, Amar’e Stoudemire, Tim Duncan, Lamar Odom, and Richard Jackson have in common. They were members of the 2004 US Olympic men’s basketball team, all NBA all stars playing against amateurs, projected to go undefeated. The only question was the margin of victory. WRONG! They lost three of their seven games by a margin of 33 points. One game was a blow out and the last was never close. You can see the highlights on YouTube. The difference: the Americans were all stars with huge egos, concerned about stats and publicity. They played as individuals whereas Argentinians played as a team. To my knowledge, Emanuel David Ginóbili is the only member of the Argentine team to play in the NBA.

They teamwork payed off and they celebrated their victory with great joy. When synergy happens, joy is the by product.

V. THE HEART OF MINISTRY IS COMPASSION [Love]

 I wrote that letter in great anguish {thlipsis, pressure} , with a troubled heart {synochē, a narrow strait} and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you. [2 Cor. 2:4]

Our motivation for Ministry has to be love: love for Jesus and love for others. We must be compelled by the love of Christ. As Paul shared in his first letter, LOVE is the highest motive:

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

We never fail in ministry if we are motivated by the love of Christ. The last line of to nights passage is:  I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you.

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Second Passion Saying

Scripture: Luke 9:43-45

While everyone was marveling at everything He was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Listen to me and remember what I say. The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.” 45 But they didn’t know what He meant. Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it, and they were afraid to ask Him about it.

I want to make some observations based on the scripture and the commentaries I have studied.

1. It is one thing to be an enthusiastic admirer and another to be a loyal disciple.

There is nothing wrong with admiring Jesus. I admire Him for his courage, love and many, many other attributes. Matter of fact, I go beyond admiration, I worship HIM. He is my hero, my best friend and my Sovereign KING. Many in the world admire Jesus but He wants more from me than mere admiration. Jesus had a large group of disciples who followed as long as He was giving away free fish and hush puppies but when Jesus got into the hard sayings, they stopped following.

[John 6:66-69] As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”

This is the second time that Jesus has brought up His death and being handed over to His enemies and the disciples did not want to hear it. The first time Jesus mentioned His passion, Peter rebuked Him and we know how well that went over. The flesh draws back at death and the cross is an instrument of death.

2. Hearing is one thing, understanding is another.

My hearing is not all that bad but my comprehension is awful. Jesus was speaking the words aloud and they they were hearing but it was not sinking in. This is why Jesus said, “Let these words sink into your ears.”

We cannot understand everything but I am very sure we could learn more if we listened better. When I study scripture: I pine and pray. I go over the same verse or passage again and again. I read every translations I can get my hands on. I realize that we still have KJV only folks out there but you can learn more from reading different translations than you can from commentaries. Most people read parts of the bible but they never read it through and that is sad.

Why do I read all English translations? I don’t want to miss anything and I am telling you that these translators have spent hours exegeting these words which is a tremendous help to those of us who do not have that expertise and time. I want to know the truth. I do not want my entire theology built on a bad translation verse. 

I want to know and I am not afraid to ask.

3. God reserves the right to act in ways that we cannot comprehend.

The last thing I want to hear is a preacher who knows everything. Be weary of he who acknowledges no mystery. I would not want to worship a god that some preacher could carry around in his little box of brains. My God is incomprehensible. He is too great to be imagined and He surely cannot be explained. You will either accept my God by faith on His terms or not at all. 

I see this as the major problem with the Reform movement; they are pseudo-intellectuals, they think they know more than God. They have an explanation for everything. I don’t want an explanation for everything.

4. We are fear driven instead of faith driven.

[Luke 9: 45] But they didn’t know what He meant. Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it, and they were afraid to ask Him about it.

Lets be honest, we get uncomfortable when Jesus begins talking about suffering and the cross makes us queasy. We don’t want to think about a cross, His or ours. By keeping the cross safely locked away in some remote doctrine, focused on the past, we ignore the excitement of living the Christ life in the present . We have no idea what it means to follow Jesus. We refuse to deny ourselves and take up our cross. We make the cross a religious relic of the past and thus isolate ourselves from a hurting, dying world.

The cross is not a relic, not an adornment for the sanctuary; its not a good luck charm we wear around out necks–it is a way of life. It is the only way to follow Christ.

{Unfinished and Unedited, posted for easy access}

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus

MORE JESUS AND LESS RELIGION

Scripture: Luke 9:37-43

37 The next day, after they had come down the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus. 38 A man in the crowd called out to him, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, my only child.39 An evil spirit keeps seizing him, making him scream. It throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It batters him and hardly ever leaves him alone. 40 I begged your disciples to cast out the spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

41 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you and put up with you?” Then he said to the man, “Bring your son here.” {Mark…Bring the boy to Me.}

42 As the boy came forward, the demon knocked him to the ground and threw him into a violent convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and healed the boy. Then he gave him back to his father. 43 Awe gripped the people as they saw this majestic display of God’s power.

INTRODUCTION

Life can turn chaotic and confusing in a brief period of time. When Jesus came down from the mount of transfiguration; He found his disciples in an argument with the Scribes, a man following them, begging for the healing of his son and then there was a curious crowd following the man. It was utter chaos and confusion until the Prince of Peace descended from the Mountain and brought peace and healing to the entire situation. What an awesome thought: Jesus, the Prince of Peace, coming back to earth and restoring order. I long for the day.

TRANSITION

I love Luke’s gospel, it is story after story about Jesus and today is no different. This story is not about the scribes, not about the disciples, not about the doubting father nor the sick boy–this story is about Jesus. If you subtract Jesus from this story, it is not worth telling. Hallelujah, what a Savior.

I. THE FIRST THING I CALL YOUR ATTENTION TO IS JESUS CONDESCENSION

[Verse 37] The next day, after they had come down the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus.

There was peaceful solitude on the mountain; there was even glory on the mountain. On the mountain top, Jesus had the cover of the shekinah glory cloud; He had the sympathy of Moses and Elijah but Jesus came back down to the hurt and pain in the valley below.

Jesus could have stayed in the glory of heaven. He volunteered to be our paschal Lamb, the sacrifice for our sins. He laid His life down by His own admission. No one forced Him to die on the cross. It was His comprehensible love that kept Him focused on the cross. Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.” [John 6:51]

Paul said in Philippians 2….Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Jesus, Son of God, became a man to save men. Would you be willing to become a rat to save the rats or a snake to save the snakes. There is a greater gap between God and man than man and a mouse. We cannot fathom how low Jesus stooped to save us. If we had any sense at all, we would all be on our faces thanking God for such a loving Savior as our LORD Jesus Christ.

II. THE SECOND THING I WANT YOU TO NOTE ABOUT JESUS IS HIS COMPASSION

 [Verse 38] A man in the crowd called out to him, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, my only child.”

We don’t know a lot about the man but we do know that…

  1. He had an imperfect faith…Mark tells us the man said… “If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” {Jesus said} If You can? All things are possible to him who believes.”
  2. We know this was his only child.
  3. We know that he was persistent: this thing had been going on for hours, perhaps even days.

The word ‘look at’ means to to regard, to look upon, to study, to pay special attention. Jesus heard the father’s prayer, overlooked his imperfect faith and He studied the boy’s situation.  If you have a friend that is willing to stop and study your situation, you are fortunate. How much more blessed are we whom Christ has looked upon our pathetic condition. Jesus did not just come down to where we are; He cares deeply about our plight.

III. THE THIRD THING I WANT YOU TO NOTE ABOUT JESUS IS HIS COMPOSURE

[Verse 41] Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you and put up with you?” Then he said to the man, “Bring your son here.” {Mark…Bring the boy to Me.}

Jesus is always in control. No tantrums, no fits, no dramatics…He calmly addresses the problem. I’m not saying that Jesus was not somewhat moved with righteous indignation, He was a little stirred but He did not lose His composure. The scribes were a pain in the rear. The disciples were immature. The man was begging profusely. It is more than enough to tick me off. How many times had He taught the lesson on faith yet none of His disciples seem to get it. Jesus was dealing with a rebellious and unbelieving generation. They saw more miracles than any generation in the history of mankind, yet for the most part, they rejected Jesus. The word corrupt means, twisted, perverted, rebellious or distorted.

Everything Jesus said about them, He can say about us.

IV. LAST, I WANT YOU TO NOTE JESUS COMMAND

As the boy came forward, the demon knocked him to the ground and threw him into a violent convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and healed the boy. Then he gave him back to his father. 43 Awe gripped the people as they saw this majestic display of God’s power.

The Greek word for rebuke means to to admonish or charge sharply.  Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the boy and it left. Mark gospel clearly states…When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up.

The evil spirit showed out before leaving but it did leave. The boy appeared to be dead. For a brief time, it appeared that the demon had won but not so. Jesus reached down and too the boy by the hand and then gave him back to his father.

CONCLUSION

You know at times it does appear that the devil is winning. The mysterious death of Anthony Scalia. He was in a West Texas ranch motel. They found him Sunday morning with a pillow over his head. No autopsy was performed and the body was embalmed before family had the opportunity to have a say. Sounds pretty fishy to me. Kind of strange, Obama and his left wing radicals want to appoint another liberal before Obama leaves the White House. I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t pull it off: no one has stopped him thus far. Shelby runs these fictitious ads about stopping Obama which is a lie. No one has stopped him. I think we would know it if someone had. When you look at the moral decline of America it is frightening. How much more before God says, “Enough! Have your own way.” It does look bad but that is from our earthy perspective. Jesus is not in panic mode. I don’t know what kind of future America has but followers of Christ have a bright future. Things may appear to be out of control but they are not.

I like the way this story ends…The crowd is awe struck by Jesus majestic display of power. They saw His glory, splendor, and majesty. This story is prophetic because this is how it will all end, we will see Him in His glory, splendor and Majesty.

{This sermon is unedited}

The Great Amen

II Corinthians 1:19-22, NLT

19 For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says.20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for His glory. 21 It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, 22 and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.

II Corinthians 1:21-22, NRSV

21 But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, 22 by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.

The Message

Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.

Four things God does for us in Christ:

  1. He Establishes Us.
  2. He Anoints Us.
  3. He Seals Us.
  4. He Guarantees Us. 

INTRODUCTION

People who waver and waffle are unsure of themselves; they have a huge lack of confidence. Paul was very confident in his identity in Christ. As he gives personal testimony about himself, he at the same time teaches the Corinthians how to be confident in their faith and relationship with Christ.

The word “Amen” is a word of affirmation: used at the beginning of a sentence, it means – surely, truly, of a truth: at the end – so it is, so be it, may it be fulfilled. It was a custom, which passed over from the synagogues to the Christian assemblies, that when he who had read or discoursed, had offered up solemn prayer to God, the others responded Amen, and thus made the substance of what was uttered their own.

God has affirmed all His promises in Christ: Jesus has made them so but it does not end there–Jesus also affirms us.

We can be confident that all God’s promises are made true in Christ. Examples:

  • Genesis 3:15–And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seedHe shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” The male carries the seed [virile semen], not the woman. This is the first prophecy of the virgin birth. Jesus was born without Mary being impregnated with the seed of a man.
  • Genesis 22:18– In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
  • Isaiah 9:6-7–For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

[This is three among hundreds of Messianic Promises]

TRANSITION

Lets examine the four promises Paul mentions here in 2 Corinthians 1

I. GOD ESTABLISHES US

  • The NLT–enables us
  • The NIV–makes us able to stand
  • The NASB–establishes us
  • The AV–anoints us
  • The Holman–strengthens

The Greek word is bebaioō, to make firm, establish, confirm, make sure. If I understand correctly, the word has to do with establishing a person or thing on the proper foundation. What is the one thing we need to sure up our faith? What do we need to establish us on the proper foundation? I think the answer is TRUTH. The truth of the gospel and the truth of God’s word and especially, His promises. I think this is exactly what Russel Carter had in mind when he wrote the hymn STANDING ON THE PROMISES

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
through eternal ages let his praises ring;
glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
by the living Word of God I shall prevail,
standing on the promises of God.  

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
bound to him eternally by love’s strong cord,
overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,
resting in my Savior as my all in all,
standing on the promises of God.

We are established by the truth of God’s word and especially His promises.

II. GOD ANOINTS US

The Greek word anoint is chriō–consecrating for office, and furnishing with the necessary powers for its administration, enduing Christians with the gifts of the Holy Spirit that enable. Christ, our ultimate example was ‘Anointed.’

  • Acts 4:27–The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ [Anointed, chriō].’ {Psalm 2:1-2]
  • Acts 10:38–And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
  • Luke 4:18–“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.”  [Isaiah 61:1]
  • Hebrews 1:9–You love justice and hate evil. Therefore, O God, your God has anointed you, pouring out the oil of joy on you more than on anyone else. [Psalm 45:7]

The scriptures make it abundantly clear that Jesus is the Anointed One but He has anointed us, He has set us apart for His service. He had commissioned us to fulfill His task. I John 2:20 the scripture reads, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. [NIV]

Christ has called us, set us aside for His service and He has gifted us with the Holy Spirit who is our anointing, our enabling power to carry out His will on this earth.

III. GOD SEALS US

Our word today would be Stamp, God gives us His stamp of approval. Years ago I bought a truck load of lumber from a lumber yard in Vinemont. This lumber is what I call #4 or cull. You can get #1 and 2 at a regular lumber yard. The lumber I bought did not make the grade, it did not meet grading approval, he had no stamp. When they grade it, they stamp it and prepare it for shipping.

We all understand how the postal system works: we put an address on an envelope and stamp it, put it in the mail box with the flag up and it is ready to go. It is simply awaiting the arrival of the post man. In ancient times, they used hot wax and a stamp. This would identify ownership before shipment.

I love Ephesians 4:30 where Paul writes, Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Christ has put His mark on us: we are signed, sealed and ready for delivery. Our destination is set and secure. Our ship has not arrived at port but we are stamped and ready for departure to our final destination. Obviously, we can stamp our self: this is Christ work of grace and we should glory in it.

IV. GOD GIVE US A GUARANTEE

2 Corinthians 1:21-22

21 But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, 22 by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment. [NRSV]

Ephesians 1:13-14

13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession,to the praise of His glory.

This first installment or pledge is earnest money given as a pledge or down payment that the full amount will subsequently be paid. 

When we make a down payment, the product is held by the seller until we return with the full amount. The same principle applies in engagement rings. When a man gives and engagement ring, it shows that he is in earnest. 

God has given us His Spirit to show that He is earnest or pledge.

16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

The Greek word for ‘Helper’ is paraklētos, a compound verb which means to stand along side of; it is translated both ‘Comforter’ and ‘Advocate’ by the AV. The NLT translates it ‘Helper’ but the NRSV and NASB both use the word ‘Advocate’ which I prefer. When we think of Christ or the Holy Spirit as being our advocates, we are thinking a  person who publicly supports or recommends our particular cause or policy but actually the Holy Spirit advocates in Jesus behalf as well. In brief, Jesus has an advocate indwelling you, someone to plead His cause. This means, if you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, you will have some evidence of His presence….

  • The Holy Spirit will be an Antagonist against the flesh and sin. You will have an abiding conscientiousness of sin. In other words, sin will bother you. Paul said in Galatians 5:16-17… But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
  • The Holy Spirit will be an Advocate for Jesus. You will not forget your identity or to whom you belong. “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.” John 16:13-15… But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.
  • The Holy Spirit is our Assistant [Helper]. He guides us to truth. 
    • John 14:16-17…I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
    • [Luke 21:14-15] So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.
    • [John 14:25-26] “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”

CONCLUSION

The Holy Spirit is our enabler, our anointing. How can we carry out our LORD’s orders? He enables us with His Spirit. I’ve been attending church all my life. You do not have to have supernatural enablement to attend church but sharing your faith with others is a different matter. Witnessing has always been a greater challenge to me than preaching and I need divine enablement to preach.

The average Christ does not see any need to be filled with the Holy Spirit: we do very little that requires the Spirit’s help but when you get ready to knock on doors, you will pray for filling. 

I began sharing my faith as a late teenager and I had a very good teacher. I can remember the first time he allowed me to present. The house has long since been torn down but I can take you to the spot. We were doing follow up on VBS and this little 12 year old boy was ready. We sat down with him and Bro. Inman said to my shock and surprise, Jack is going to lead you through the scriptures and show you how to be saved. Bro. Inman had not given me the slightest hint that he was going to hand me this tremendous responsibility. I swallowed hard and took a few deep breaths. What happened next shocked me even more than Bro. Inman’s announcement. I shared verse after verse that I didn’t even know I knew. Actually, I was sharing the same verses that Bro. Inman used. I had heard them so many times, I knew them by heart.

When we got in the car to leave, I was elated. Not only had the boy prayed to receive Christ, the Holy Spirit had taken control my tongue and used me to guide him to Christ. I knew in an instant that this was the work of the Spirit in conjunction with God’s word and our willingness to be instruments.

Under Fire

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:12-19

12 We can say with confidence and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness and sincerity in all our dealings. We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. 13 Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, 14 even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you.

15 Since I was so sure of your understanding and trust, I wanted to give you a double blessing by visiting you twice—16 first on my way to Macedonia and again when I returned from Macedonia. Then you could send me on my way to Judea.

17 You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”? 18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” 19 For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says.

INTRODUCTION

There was someone in the church, a male, [2 Cor. 2:5] who was highly critical of Paul. He was a trouble maker and his actions were dividing the church. Most of 2 Corinthians is a defense by Paul concerning the criticism coming from this man and his followers. Paul is offended, hurt and feeling misunderstood.

TRANSITION

Basically, the accusations are three-fold

I. PAUL IS BEING ACCUSED OF BEING INSINCERE IN HIS MOTIVES

[2 Cor. 1:12-13] We can say with confidence [pride, boasting] and a clear conscience that we have lived with a God-given holiness [singleness, simplicity, sincerity,the virtue of one who is free from pretense and hypocrisy] and sincerity in all our dealings. 

Paul says, “I take pride in my sincerity, I have not been duplicitous, I have been sincere [NRSV, frank].” As much as we hate it, we cannot stop people from questioning our motives. I learned this the hard way some 40 years ago. After a difficult and painful deacons meeting, I tried to get some consolation from one of the deacons that I assumed was a sympathizer. I made a mistake, one that I vowed not to make again. I said to him, “Well they accused me of a lot of things but the one thing they cannot accuse me of is not loving people.” He said without a moments hesitation, “Oh, that is exactly what they are accusing you of.” I was stunned. I didn’t know how to respond. At first I thought he was wrong but after giving it a lot of thought, I wasn’t sure. His statement shattered my confidence. BUT, painful as it was, I learned a great lesson: you cannot control what people think and say about you.

II. PAUL IS BEING ACCUSED OF BEING AMBIGUOUS IN HIS SPEECH

We have depended on God’s grace, not on our own human wisdom. That is how we have conducted ourselves before the world, and especially toward you. Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand.

Secondly, Paul said, “We depend on God’s grace, not human wisdom.” Not only was Paul sincere, he had been clear and simple. There was nothing written between the lines, no subliminal messages. Everything is simple and direct and should be easy to understand. Paul’s goal was not to mystify but to motivate. Paul was a PhD., an intellect, a theologian unparalleled but his goal was not to be high-minded or overly intellectual. He wanted the message to be simple and clear.

Years ago, I had a pastor friend who did not complete his college or seminary degrees. To compensate, he would use the dictionary to form his sermon titles and outlines. He called on Saturday night to tell me what he was preaching the next morning. One Saturday night I got a call from Rob, he said, “I am preaching on the vicissitudes of life.” I said, “What on earth are vicissitudes? He said, “I don’t know but they don’t either.” My curiosity was killing me so I looked it up, Rob could have entitled his message THE UPS AND DOWNS IN LIFE. Our goal is not to impress but to communicate truth. For every big word, there are three little ones that mean the same thing.

My kids and grand kids pick at me about my pronunciation of words and I admit it is pretty bad. I have a 12 year old that corrects me. I speak a southern slang. I tell folks that I am bilingual, I speak Red Neck and a bit of English. When my kids are upbraiding me at the dinner table about my diction, I always respond the same way: “Did you understand what I meant?” Their response is “Yes, but…” and I say, there are not buts, you either understood or you didn’t. I try to be clear in delivering His message. This is a goal for me but it was also a goal for Paul and they still criticized him.

Paul’s prayer:  I hope someday you will fully understand us, even if you don’t understand us now. Paul was a great teacher. I study his writings and letter all the time and every time I study them, I understand something that I didn’t before. His teaching is simple, yet profound. I cannot understand why the Corinthians did not appreciate him.

III. PAUL IS BEING ACCUSED OF BEING FICKLE IN HIS PLANS

[2 Cor. 1:15-18] Since I was so sure of your understanding and trust, I wanted to give you a double blessing by visiting you twicefirst on my way to Macedonia and again when I returned from Macedonia. Then you could send me on my way to Judea. You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” 

According to Warren W. Wiersbe and Randolph Tasker, Paul changed his mind [plans] twice. He first promised is found in 1 Corinthians 16:5-9…

 PLAN A–I am coming to visit you after I have been to Macedonia,  for I am planning to travel through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay awhile with you, possibly all winter, and then you can send me on my way to my next destination. This time I don’t want to make just a short visit and then go right on. I want to come and stay awhile, if the Lord will let me. In the meantime, I will be staying here at Ephesus until the Festival of Pentecost. There is a wide-open door for a great work here, although many oppose me.

PLAN BI wanted to give you a double blessing [joy, benefit] by visiting you twicefirst on my way to Macedonia and again when I returned from Macedonia. Then you could send me on my way to Judea. [2 Corinthians 1:15]

Paul made three visits to Corinth:

  1. The initial visit [A.D. 50]–Acts 18:1-18
  2. The second visit [A.D. 55] –I Corinthians 4:19, 16:5-8
  3. The Third Visit [A.D. 57]–II Corinthians 12:14, 13:1

According to most scholars, Paul wrote before the A.D. 55 visit. There are a lot of details that are fuzzy and I don’t think anyone other than the LORD knows exactly when or how many visits Paul made: the POINT of the scripture is clear. The Corinthians were accusing Paul of being fickle, because he changed his travel plans once and perhaps twice. I would learn toward the latter.

Paul responds with questions…

  1. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? NLT. The NRSV reads… Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Going back and forth, unable to make a definite decision.
  2. Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”? Accusing Paul of being indefinite, unclear, wishy-washy, etc. My wife tries to micro manage my affairs especially related to cell phones. I would get my own phone but she insist that she do it. When my contract ran out I was debating whether to stay with Apple [who I want to boycott] or switch to Samsung. I was taking my time, talking to different individuals and I was getting conflicting reports. I told her to wait until I decided but she didn’t, she took it upon herself to order the Samsung. When I scolded her for jumping ahead of me, she accused me of being wishy-washy. This did not go over well. I have been called a lot of things but up until that point, not one has ever called me wishy-washy. I may make the wrong decision, but I make decisions. In this case, there was no rush. Paul did not take kindly to being labeled wishy-washy and I don’t blame him.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion: Paul said, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the ONE I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says.

The bottom line is that we humans, despite our effort and good intentions, cannot always keep our promises. Paul had some unexpected things to come up and he was providentially hindered. He was not breaking a promise intentionally, but he lacked the power to follow through with his original plans.

THE FIRST RULE OF MISSION WORK is be flexible or you will get bent out of shape. It is fine to plan a mission trip to the second or third world but you need to understand the fact that they do not use clocks the way we do. In Mission work, you have to go to Plan B and Plan C at times.

Should we think things through before we make promises? Yes, I think so but sometimes we get caught up in the moment and make a promise we can’t keep [Peter]. This is the bad news, humans are not 100% reliable but JESUS is the ultimate PROMISE KEEPER. Paul said, “Jesus Christ, the One I preached to you is God’s ULTIMATE YES. He always keeps His promises.

[All sermons are unedited]

Painful Truth

Scripture: Luke 9:23-27, NLT

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. 27 I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.”

Introduction

Jesus was the truth teller sent from God. Everything Jesus says is backed with divine integrity but he did say some hard things. I have faced a lot of challenges in life but never one more difficult than following Jesus. Being His disciple is a life time of learning, obeying and practicing spiritual disciplines.

Luke 9:21 marks a turning point is Jesus ministry. He is in the extreme North, Caesarea Philippi and now He is turning South toward Jerusalem and toward a cross which He talked about in verse 22, “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

To this point, His ministry has been teaching, healing, and performing miracles. These things have been attracting great crowds but now Jesus will do fewer and fewer miracles as He prepares Himself and His followers for the cross. Many who had followed Him to this point, cannot process His hard sayings and they cease to follow.

Transition

Today were going to look at some of the most challenging things Jesus taught. A DISCIPLE is a follower, a learner, an apprentice. The disciples learns not only by listening but also by doing. There are four things the DISCIPLE must practice to be a TRUE FOLLOWER of Jesus Christ…If we process and put in to practice (daily) these four things, we will be blessed.

I. DENY YOUR SELF [Turn from you selfish ways]

The first and most difficult battle is to die to self.  Paul said to the Galatians,  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ,” crucifixion means death so Paul is saying, “I died with Christ, I no longer live.” So Paul admits he is dead but then he says, “BUT Christ lives in me.” So which is he, dead or alive. He is dead to self and alive to Christ. Paul is a living dead man.

This is the challenge to each of us as believers, to live dead to self and alive to Christ. Someone said, “There are two trees in everyone’s garden: the tree of self and the tree of life or Christ and each and every morning, we choose which choose the tree from which we will partake. Perhaps, you are thinking, “I don’t choose, I don’t even think about it.” No choice is a choice: are default setting is on ‘Self’ and it you do not think or pray otherwise, you will live for self.

Simon Peter was having an agonizing battle with self on the eve of Jesus death. He made a bold prediction [“Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”] but it came from his flesh. Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  In Peter mind, denying Christ was inconceivable but the flesh cannot be trusted. It will fail you 100% of the time when it comes to doing God’s will.

When Peter sleep in the Garden instead of praying fervently, Jesus said, “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” The flesh is strong when it comes to protecting self or gratifying self but it is weak when it comes to pleasing God.

II. TAKE YOUR CROSS

Note: Jesus did no say, “Take up My cross. You and I could never bear Jesus’ cross. Jesus death was atoning. Because of His perfect obedience and His perfect fulfillment of the law and the Old Testament, Jesus became a perfect sacrifice. He lived a life we could not live and He died a death we cannot die. We die because of our sins, Jesus died for the sins of others; He had no sin.

  • Your Cross is a personal…take up your cross. Several years ago, I was reading one of the Voice of the Martyrs devotions and it told about the persecution in Japan. Francis Xavier carried the gospel to Japan in 1549. It was received well for a few years but within a century of it’s coming to Japan, government officials felt threatened by the rapid growth of Christianity and they initiated a brutal persecution. Over 30,000 Christians were executed. Some were crucified including children. The story is told of one young teenage girl, who being lead by the Japanize guards, came to the cross marked by her name. “Is this my cross?” Asked the young lady, “Yes, said the guard!” She kneeled to the ground and begin to kiss and embrace her cross. Steve Green, the son of a Missionary wrote on song with this thought in mind:

Embrace the cross
Where Jesus suffered
Though it will cost
All you claim as yours
Your sacrifice will seem small
Beside the treasure
Eternity can’t measure
What Jesus holds in store

  • Your Cross is daily…it is not once and done, it is an everyday responsibility and privilege. In the Greco-Roman world, the cross was not mentioned in polite conversation–it was considered offensive and vulgar. Can you imagine humans wearing a necklace with a gold electric chair. The world despises the cross then and now but Christians see it as a symbol of VICTORY.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
 
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me. 

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

III. LOSE YOUR LIFE

We of our strongest instincts is self-preservation. Our default setting is to look out for number one. Most people give in to this instinct which runs counter to everything Jesus taught. The person who disregarded Jesus teaching on denying self and laying down their life tries to gain the whole world. This doesn’t mean the wealth of all the world, it means we try to attain the standard set by the world–A house, boat, cabin on the lake, UTV, SUV, 70 inch TV. This is what Jesus means by the whole world: materialistic success, getting everything you want. To get those things, you have to devote your life to getting them. You cannot be devoted to Christ and to getting all these things.

This is way some are totally baffled at a person surrendering their life to missions. Have you ever met a rich missionary? Have you ever met a sad one? For a person to lay down their life in service of people who can not repay them, is insane to the natural man.

But as Jesus taught, a person is more than a body needed to be clothed; we are more than a stomach needing to be feed. We believe in a future that transcends death. There is a present reality (where the natural man lives entirely) and there is an ultimate reality that the natural man does not consider.

Abraham never owed a home. He was the steward of great wealth but he never built a house. He lived his entire life here in tents. Why? Because he knew that life here is temporary. We are not here long. A lot of people enjoy camping at State Parks. They drive in with campers or tents and build themselves a ‘camp site.’ People don’t drive by and say, “Would you look at those fools, they are putting up a tent for the weekend.” But what if some poor idiot brought a load of lumber and starting building a house for the week end. Then people would drive by and say, “What an idiot, building a house for a weekend or a week.” Some people are building a house on a camp site.

We are so selfish that we cling to our life and in doing so, we lose it. Remember what Jonah said to the pagan sailors, “Salvation is of the LORD.” Let me ask you a question, can you actually save your life? You can’t save physical life and you certainly can’t gain eternal life. Stop trying to save yourself, it cannot be done. Let go, lay your life down and Jesus will give you a better life but the only way to receive this truth is by faith. Until you trust Jesus, you will by nature cling to your life and you will lose it.

IV. CONFESS YOUR FAITH

If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. [verse 26]

To be ashamed of Jesus is to be unwilling to acknowledge Him under social, political, or economic pressure and this could include the threat of death. Many, many years ago, I heard a Missionary who had escaped a threatening situation in South America. He confessed publicly that the only way to get out of the country was to pretend that he was not a Christian. He rationalization was: “I was no good to God dead.” I was a young man at the time but that did not fly with me. I didn’t hear anything else the man said, “He had just confessed being coward.” Some things are universally abhorred and being a coward is one of them.

I am not going to make a bold statement like Peter but I will say this: my prayer, my hope is never to deny him even if it cost my life. I pray that He will grace me with courage when the time comes. It is easy to confess Him here but it is tough out there in the world where He is hated and despised. With that said, “Here, it the place to start.” If you can’t confess Him before the church, you will surely deny Him before the world.”

 

 

 

 

Why Do Christians Suffer?

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.

I. SUFFERING MAKES US SENSITIVE TO THE SUFFERINGS OF OTHERS

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.” [2 Cor. 1:4]

My wife bought a Nissan Rouge a year or so ago. The first time I remember seeing a Nissan Rouge was the day we picked her’s out at the car lot. I had no idea they made such a vehicle. Now that she has one, I see them everyday. They were their all along but I didn’t notice until she bought one.

It is the same way with suffering. It takes a person who has had a broken heart to spot a broken heart. Our heavenly Father is a God of tender mercy. Showing mercy is His default setting–He loves to show mercy and you and I have experienced His mercy as a precious gift but we do not know how to show it or share it until we have suffered. Once we suffer, we become sympathetic with others that suffer: we are equipped to give them the same quality of comfort that the LORD has given us.

This is why your ministry will come from your pain and failure more than from you success. It is always easier to relate to others when we understand what they are going through.

II. SUFFERING FORGES FELLOWSHIP

When ‘they’ are troubled, ‘we’ will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. [2 Cor. 1:4]

I am not going to say I completely understand it but I have experienced it many times and I know it is true: when you come along side a family and suffer with them through a crisis; it forges a bond that will never be broken. When we came to our present church 27 years ago, within a span of three years, we experience the heartbreak of losing a little 8 year boy to Cystic Fibrosis. It was tough: I have no words to describe it. The church was small at the time which meant I had more time. In those last few weeks and days, I practically lived with this family [Children’s Hospital in Birmingham]. I spent night laying in the floor of the waiting room. I think I was with them for the last two or three days. I felt helpless. I was helpless. The only thing I could do was be there as a representative of Christ, just a visible manifestation of HIS divine presence. I said very little because I didn’t know what to say. It broke our hearts when the Heavenly Father took him. There were only two comforts that I can remember, we knew he was in better hands [Jesus] and we knew he would not suffer anymore. Other than these two things, there was a lot of pain and grief. This child’s father became one of my best friends, loyal as bull dog and as courageous as a lion. I told my children last week: Kids, your daddy would never have been able to stay in Danville all these years had it not been of Kenneth Narrell. Recently, I was sick and unable to function, the mother of the above child called to check on me every day. Kenneth was promoted in 2009. My family and his family have endured at least 4 critical storms together and it has forged a bond that I don’t think gossip can break. I’m not plying for your sympathy but I will tell you straight up: most folks are not going to give a preacher the benefit of the doubt but his family is an exception. What forged this unbreakable bond? Suffering.

III. SUFFERING ‘CRUSHES’US: TAKING US TO OUR KNEES

“Even when we are weighed down with troubles…” [v.6] We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure. [v.8]

Chuck Swindoll says for every 49 that can handle failure, there is only one who can handle success. I concur! Failure, suffering has a way of bringing us down to earth. The word picture in the Greek is of a beast of burden who is crushed beneath the load. Sometimes we get so loaded with the cares of this world, anxieties, stress, burdens, even guilt–we are literally crushed by the weight. SUFFERING crushes us like the grapes in a wine press. It brings us to the end of our resources and to our knees where we cry out for God’s help. We never pray more earnestly than when we suffer.

IV. SUFFERING DECENTRALIZES SELF

“We stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God.” [v.9]

Following the same theme discussed above, when suffering crushes us, it separates us from the chaff, from the alloys, the impurities, the worthless. Suffering is like the refiners fire, it purges out the dross. We all know that we are to live dead to self and alive to Christ but knowing and doing are two different things. Suffering can achieve in our lives what nothing else can do. It is a vital part of our sanctification. In order for Jack to decrease and Jesus increase [in my life], suffering is a necessity. I don’t enjoy suffering, I don’t pray for it to come but I do realize that God in His GRACE uses it to burn out the dross.

V. SUFFERING DRAWS US CLOSER TO CHRIST

 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. [v.10]

I don’t want to be redundant, but suffering has a drawing power. Prosperity can lead us to drift away from Christ whereas suffering can draw us near. A young child got a new sail boat and carried it to the city part where there was a lake. He put his boat in the water but the wind quickly carried his boat beyond reach. He went to get the help of a teenager standing near by: the teenage picked up a few large rocks and started to through them in the direction of the boat: the little fellow began to beg…”No, no, no, I don’t want you to sink my boat, I want to get it back.” The kid brushed him aside and said, “You have to trust me.” With that he threw one of the large rocks a few few beyond the boat and the waves from the rock began bringing the boat to shore. After repeating this process several times, the little boy was able to reach and get his boat.

The adversity that we think is going to sink us actually brings us closer to Christ.

VI. SUFFERING FOSTERS DISSATISFACTION WITH THIS WORLD

The Israelite had to suffer bondage and oppression before they had a desire to leave Egypt. A farmer planned to burn a huge brush pile but when he went to burn, he discovered a birds nest in the rotten brush. He carefully moved the nest to another bush and then waited to see what would happen. When he got back to the brush pile a day or two later, the bird had built a new nest in the brush pile. So he pondered: she will not let me move her nest so how am I going to get her to move? Finally, he lined her nest with thorns and she found a new location.

We would get content with life here if there was no suffering. God puts a few thorns in our nest to give us a longing to live elsewhere. The older you get, the more you feel the thorns.

VII. SUFFERING PRODUCES GRATITUDE

Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. [v.11]

I have been in the ministry for 48 years and I have never meet a truly thankful person who had not suffered a great deal. The generations below us are spoiled and ungrateful. They want, want, want and are never satisfied with what they get…this is because they have not suffered. You cannot learn gratitude apart from suffering and you can never enjoy grace until you have gratitude. {Corrie ten Boom}

 

[unedited]