During December our sermons will attempt to take a sweeping view of our society and the church. How do things look? How are we handling the troubling things we see? What are some things that make us nervous about the future?
One thing that ranks high on our list is the number of stressed and burned out lives. Think about yourself for a moment. How would you describe the level of stress you’re feeling right now? Most likely the stressors you are coping with come from several different areas of your life. How are you responding to that stress?
While today’s sermon will focus mostly on the sinful type of worry and stress that overtakes and dominates one’s life, we need to remember that in and of themselves, stress and pressure are not necessarily bad. In fact, they are God-given things that can cause us each to lead a responsible life. Stress and pressure can actually strengthen us to accomplish the challenges God sets before us.
This is the type of pressure we can handle and must manage. In 2 Corinthians 11.28-29 Paul writes of the daily internal pressure of anxiety for all the churches. He was concerned for those who were weak. He cared when people were led into sin. The NCV translates 11.29 this way: I feel weak every time someone is weak. I feel upset every time someone is led into sin. Being concerned for the spiritual welfare of others is just one example of the stress we can feel.
Stress that motivates us to positive change is also observed in 2 Corinthians 13.5 when Paul challenges Christians to self examination and the quality of their faith. I’m sure you’ve already filled out the chart on p. 6-7 of this year’s Vision 2019 plan. How did you score? What are the areas of greatest concern? Where are you most spiritually vulnerable? Your desire to do right before God will probably make you uncomfortable when you think deeply on these things. Let that feeling of discomfort and stress motivate you to make the right changes.
This is stress and pressure from a positive perspective. We all need to feel it, respond appropriately, and participate with God who is at work in us, Philippians 2.13. This is how we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. It is the combination of our faith and actions.
What are the areas of life you need to work on? What is your plan of action? When will you act?
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, 2 Peter 3.18.
- Matthew Allen
Once a man visited his counselor and related his problem to him. "I am a tailor and over the years I’ve gained an excellent reputation for my experience and high quality of my work. All the nobles around me entrust me to make their costumes and their wives' dresses. The prince himself heard about me and asked me to sew him a garment with the finest silk that is possible to get in the country. I used the best materials and made my best effort. I wanted to show my art, and that this work would open the doors to a life of success.
But when I presented the finished garment to the prince, he started shouting and insulting me. “Is this the best you can do? It is an atrocity! Who taught you how to sew?” He ordered me to retire and threw the suit behind me.
I'm ruined I thought. All my capital was invested in that clothing and worse, my reputation has been totally destroyed. After this, no one will ever order a garment from me again! I do not understand what happened, it was the best job I've done in years!
"Go back to your business," said the counselor, "uncover each of the stitches of the garment and sew them exactly as you had done before, then take it to the prince."
"But I'll get the same outfit I have now!" Protested the tailor. "Also my mood is not the same as always."
"Do what I tell you, and God will help you," said the counselor.
Two weeks later, the tailor returned. "You have saved my life!" When I presented him again with his clothes, the prince's face lit up: "Beautiful" he exclaimed.”This is the most beautiful and delicate suit I have ever seen!" He paid me generously and promised to give me more work, and he would recommend me to his friends.
The tailor asked, “I want to know what was the difference between the first garment and the second one?”
"The first suit," he explained, "was sewn with arrogance and pride. The result was a spiritually repulsive outfit, although technically perfect, lacked grace and beauty, yet the second seam was made with humility and a broken heart, transmitting an essential beauty that aroused admiration in everyone who saw it."
How do you do your professional, family, personal, etc. work? Is it with arrogance and pride, or with humility in the heart?
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ
- Jaime Restrepo
There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother's womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go, and what gain is there to him who toils for the wind? Moreover, all his days he eats in darkness in much vexation and sickness and anger Ecclesiastes 5:13-17.
Do you remember how many pairs of shoes you have used throughout your life? How long did your last pair of shoes you bought last? We would be more than blessed if, using the same shoes every day, its duration will reach three years. Remember these amazing words in Deuteronomy 29:5 - "I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet.” Even their feet did not swell during those forty years, without a doubt, this was by miraculous intervention on the part of God.
This fact is even more incredible, when we consider the rugged and stony places in which the pilgrim people traveled. If we estimate that an Israelite walked a 1000 steps daily, he would have walked no less than fifteen million (15,000,000) steps in 40 years. Tremendous luck or miracle of God? What will we say about his clothes? Clothing forty years old, using it every day and not even getting old. The clothes were washed no less than 2100 times if we averaged one wash per week.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said: “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" (Matthew 6:28-30). God fulfilled this promise in the desert and will fulfill it today with us.
“Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
- Jaime Restrepo
How Will You Live Your Life?
Doing God’s will today, so you can have a better tomorrow and ultimately, a better eternity is the foundation of our 2019 Vision plan. I think sometimes we struggle with balancing the idea of planning, moving with vision, and trusting in God’s plan, with the Bible’s warnings about the uncertainty of life. If life is so uncertain, why plan? But, If I make plans, is that an indication that I’m not trusting in God like I should? Like everything in matters like these, the important thing is to respect the tension that is there and keep things in balance.
The Bible does go out of its way to remind us that life is uncertain, brief, and fragile. Time and chance happen to all. There is no avoiding it. The question is, how well will we cope with whatever tomorrow brings? This is where the other side of planning and forethought comes to play. Being prepared, making plans, good stewardship, must involve God every step of the way. How will we live our life?
On Sunday we’ll talk about:
- Don’t live as if God doesn’t exist.
- Don’t live as if you are invincible.
- How to include God in your plans
As you get ready for worship, be thinking about these things:
- What are some instances where time and chance have come upon you?
- What is the sin in James 4.13b?
- What is so presumptuous about acting like we know what tomorrow will bring?
- How does Scripture describe the brevity of life?
- What has happened to you in times past when you didn’t include God in your plans?
Sunday Song Leader: Jim Rutter
Sunday Scripture Reading: Bob Hoopes
TEXT: James 4.13-16
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry - Colossians 3:5.
You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve – Luke 4:8.
According to the English poet Oliver Reynolds, an old man had a family altar where he burned incense to an image of Napoleon. When asked why he adored the portrait as a god, the man replied that he adored anything. Imagine, venerating a picture of that French general! Imagine what it is to burn incense to the portrait of a human being who does not have a meaningful relationship with his worshipers! That is the worst of the idolatries!
Of course we never think that we are idolaters, but do we subtly disobey the commandment of God, You shall have no other gods before me? (Exodus 20:3).
We would never even dream of bowing to the photo of any mortal, however famous or powerful it may be. But who is on the throne of our heart? Are we giving the first place in our life to a loved one? Is that person first in our love? Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:37).
Maybe we love money. Or maybe our work is our highest priority. Luke 12:15-21 -And he said to them, Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. And he told them a parable, saying, The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops? And he said, I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry. But God said to him, Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.
Jesus said, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve (Luke 4:8). Are we worshiping Him and serving Him alone? Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
Have you really turned from idols to God? Spend some time alone with God to examine your heart. Make sure you have not become an idolater.
AN IDOL IS ANYTHING THAT TAKES THE PLACE OF GOD.
- Jaime Restrepo