Date: 17 August, 2014 (Final message before furlough.)
Text: I Corinthians 15:51-58
Title: Successful Service
You've heard the saying, "When the going get's tough, the tough get going."
There are often times in our life when we are tempted to quit because life is difficult.
We read the story this morning about the 12 spies who returned from Canaan. 10 of them were quitters and two were not.
Caleb and Joshua weren't quitters. As Caleb said, "Let us go up at once and possess it, for we are well able to overcome it." They saw the same things their Israelite brothers saw. But, they saw it by faith in God's ability to overcome.
Caleb and Joshua didn't have the blessing of NT Christianity. They were not filled with God's Spirit. We are. Today we ought to see greater courage and determination in serving the Lord.
And so this morning, we will look at I Corinthians 15:51-58. Paul has been addressing problems in the church and showing how to live in victory over the flesh. He is seeking to strengthen the church. He ends this book with a challenge to endurance, perseverance and success in serving the Lord. He very simply does not want them to quit.
I. What you shouldn't quit.
A. Don't quit striving towards the finish line.
58 ¶ Therefore,
exp. "Therefore" - Because of what - be steadfast, etc?
Paul has just been reminding them of the rapture of the church and the resurrection of believers. THAT IS THE MOMENT WHEN WE ARE UNITED BODILY WITH JESUS. Paul anticipated and lived like one who would live to see Christ return.
51 ¶ Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
exp. The final victory is soon to come when the race is finished. Paul is now saying to them, "Don't quit striving to finish well." THEREFORE ....BE STEADFAST....
ill. Katie and I watched a bit of a triathlon in the common wealth games. A triathalon combines three races. There is a swimming race, a cycling race and a foot race. A traithlete trains not just to win any one of those races BUT also to pace themselves so that they can finish the race. They are STRIVING FOR THE FINISH LINE ONE STROKE, ROTATION OF THE PEDALS OR FOOTFALL AT A TIME.
exp. Paul wanted them to make it to the finish line one faithful move at a time.
ill. Paul's testimony: Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
Php 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
exp. If Paul hadn't arrived in His Christian experience until he crossed that line - THAN NEITHER HAVE WE.
app. We need to KEEP striving towards that finish line.
B. Don't quit the battle of the normal christian experience.
my beloved brethren,
exp. Paul's instruction was not to fellow ministers. He was writing to all of the Corinthian believers as "my beloved brethren." Apparently within the normal Christian experience there is a battle that will test our resolve.
ill. Even some great men of God have wanted to quit the battle.
· Elijah was a seasoned soldier in the battle. But, he struggled with a desire to be finished. 1Ki 19:4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. I Kings 19: 9 ¶ And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
· Jonah Jon 4:8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
exp. These men were just men whom God used and they like us were tempted to quit. Both wanted to quit because they were battle weary.
Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
exp. IF WE DON'T QUIT - WE'LL REAP.
ill. Eleazar, one of David's mighty men, didn't quit in the battle.
II Samuel 23:9 Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David, when they defied the Philistines that were there gathered together to battle, and the men of Israel were gone away:10 He arose, and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to spoil.
app. Are you tempted to quit - grip the sword and carry on. The battle is part of NORMAL Christian experience.
C. Don't quit the responsability of taking up YOUR cross.
exp. No one can take your responsability for you. Paul wasn't writing to the church as a whole. He was writing to each person in the church. They individually had to take up THEIR cross and follow the Lord.
note: Jesus said, "And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." - Luke 9:23
saying: "A chain is only as strong as it's weakest link."
app. Paul was desirous of seeing the church in Corinth stand. But, to do so, they must each stand.
transition: What you shouldn't quit.
· striving to finish the race
· the battle (of the normal Christian experience)
· the responsability (of taking up YOUR cross.)
II. How you shouldn't quit.
exp. "HOW" are you to finish the race, face the battle, take responsability? etc.
A. Drop your anchor.
def. stedfast: firm, immoveable, settled
ill. A ship wants an anchor that is capable of digging into the soil and remaining firm. It's no good to get into a storm and find out that your anchor doesn't hold.
Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
ill: Are you fastened to the rock? Bass rock has faced some severe lashings from the SEA thsi week. Last I heard it is still there. It is immovable in a storm. Anything securely anchored to that rock is not going to budge an inch in the most severe gale.
app. The Christian experience is a battle. It's a difficult course. It is a cross we must take up. WE CAN'T STAND, RUN, OR CARRY OUR CROSS OUTSIDE OF CHRIST. If you try to do the Christian life without a close walk with God, you will miserably fail.
ill. Being at the beach in California and having a tide grab one of us kids. BUT, because they were with my dad, they were snatched from the Ocean and firmly put on dry land.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
app. How's your anchor holding? If it's Jesus, you are resolved, you are unshaken, unmoved, unswerving, confidently ATTACHED TO HIM.
B. Don't turn away from your calling.
exp. Movement in a battle can be dangerous. You can move and draw enemy fire. You can move and give up an important position. You can move and disobey your commanding officer.
quote: Bob Jones Sr. "The test of your character is what it takes to stop you."
note: In this case, "The test of your character is what it takes to stop you."
ill. Israel was happy to follow God to the promised land they just didn't want to go through the desert. They didn't want to face the enemy. They wanted an abundance and didn't want need.
question: Have you ever noticed that someone who turns away from God ALWAYS has a reason (excuse) for why they did it. They weren't immoveable - and so they justify their movement.
ill. Job lost his children, his homes, his crops, his lifestock, his servants, his health..... And job WAS UNFLINCHING.
app. What is it that TURNS YOU AWAY FROM SERVING AND OBEYING GOD? Don't move.
C. Never stop serving the Lord.
exp. Your joking Paul. ALWAYS (abounding in the work of the Lord.) We could say, "Paul don't you know that we have other things to do."
· like work. Col 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;
· Like eating and drinking. 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
· Like caring for Kids and family. Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
app. You take up your cross, finish the race, fight the fight, by ALWAYS doing everything you do as unto the Lord.
D. Seek to excell.
exp. Sub normal Christianity is not what is expected of us. Paul didn't want them to have fire insurance from Hell.
ill. It has been said that football is 100,000 men badly in need of exercise watching 22 men badly in need of rest.
note: Church is not a spectator sport. There are some people in our churches who are content to DO NOTHING FOR THE LORD JESUS WHO DID EVERYTHING FOR THEM.
app. Do you want to finish the course, fight the battle, take up your cross - ABOUND FOR THE LORD. (Get in church, Get involved in church, Get invested in church, tell others about Christ, live your very best for the Lord.)
E. Remember Who's work you are doing.
in the work of the Lord,
exp. It wasn't their work. It wasn't their church. It wasn't their ministry, mission, program, plan.... it was God's work that they were doing.
question: Pastor Crowder mentioned Simon of Cyrene last week. He carried the cross of Christ. If Jesus was fatigued, bloodied, battered, and he looked at you and said carry my cross, I can carry it no further...what would you say.
note: Jesus has said to you and to me, "Take up my cross, I can carry it no further." His cross has become ours. He is not here to carry on His work, but the responsability for HIS WORK HAS BEEN GIVEN TO US.
app. Are you DOING HIS WORK or are you content to let others have the privilege and reward of doing His work OR CONTENT TO LET IT REMAIN UNDONE WHILE PEOPLE PERISH?
transition: Don't quit striving to finish, fighting the battle, taking up YOUR cross.
How - by dropping your anchor, not turning away, always serving, excelling, in God's work.
III. Why you shouldn't quit.
exp. Is Paul's request reasonable? Is there any hope that in doing this (WHICH is not EASY) that we will succeed? Why shouldn't I quit?
A. Because of what you know: Knowledge not circumstances.
forasmuch as ye know
exp. Paul is going to deal with knowledge not circumstance. He does not say, "Forasmuch as you feal." Our feelings come and go, but the facts Paul is going to lay out DO NOT CHANGE. Based on our knowledge we should not quit.
ill. A woman who is having a baby does not feel like it is a good thing. But she knows that it is a good thing and endures to see that baby born into this world.
Joh 16:21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
app. You may not feel today like it is worth taking a stand for the Lord. You may not feel like you want to stand for the Lord. You may feel like you are losing the battle of standing with the Lord. BUT YOU CAN KNOW something that will take you unswervingly through what you feel.
B. Because of what you accept: Work not a holiday.
that your labour
exp. Paul is going to dispell any doubts as to what we are doing. This is labour not a holiday.
Any idea that Christianity is EASY is wrong.
Acts 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
note: Those who sell the Christian life on the idea that it will BE EASY AND THAT YOU WILL BE RICH AND HAVE NO PROBLEMS are false prophets.
ill. Just think how Paul describes Christianity.
question: Are good athletes, farmers and soldiers lazy?
app. Don't be decieved this morning. What we must do for the Lord is going to be difficult. It will take energy and effort to serve the Lord.
C. Beacuse of what you hope: Worthwhile not worthless.
is not in vain in the Lord.
question: Have you ever tried something for the Lord and then said, "What is the point?" It seems that I have labored in vain.
note: Maybe no one came. Maybe someone promised to come and didn't come. Maybe someone didn't pan out for Christ. Maybe the spiritual result you hoped to see in someone's life has not yet materialized.
question: And so - is it in vain that you have done these things for the Lord? NOT ACCORDING TO GOD'S WORD.
ill. Ezekiel preached to a valley of dry bones but it wasn't in vain. Moses dealt with rebellious people - but it wasn't in vain. Stephen was martyred - but it wasn't in vain.
app. You may look at it and feel like it was worthless - but GOD WHO KNOWS WHAT IS REALLY VALUABLE WOULD DISAGREE.
APP. You may have to take this by faith this morning - BUT YOUR LABOR IS NOT IN VAIN IN THE LORD.
conclusion: Caleb - "Let us go up at once and possess it for we are well able to overcome it." Numbers 13:30
Don't Quit - running, fighting, taking up your cross
Don't quit - drop your anchor, don't turn away from your calling, never stop, seek to excell, remember who's work you are doing.
Don't quit - trust knowledge - not circumstances, it IS work, it's not in vain.