Thursday, December 03, 2009
Current Study: Advent
Today’s Topic: Grace Motivates
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 4:2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.
Please permit me to review for a moment. Last Sunday we started the season of Advent – the time of the year when we remember the coming of Jesus to the earth in humility and we prepare for His return to earth in glory.
There is a specific pattern to our remembrance and preparation. We start with hope – the hope of the prophets and people that their Messiah would come, and the hope that we have as an anchor of our soul that He is coming again.
During the second week of Advent, we will focus on faith – specifically the faithfulness of our lives as we wait for Jesus to come back.
Faithfulness, or rather the lack of faithfulness, is all over the news in the past week. A famous sports celebrity has been unfaithful to his wife. As a result, his family is being pounded by the press who get their pleasure from invading people’s privacy. The unfaithfulness of the man towards his wife has resulted in people’s unfaithfulness towards him. Is one more wrong than the other? I’m not saying that his sin should be overlooked, but as Socrates said 400 years before Christ was born, Think not those faithful who praise all thy words and actions; but those who kindly reprove thy faults. Tiger Woods needs to be corrected, but it needs to be done gently with love, not in the destructive fashion of the media.
Unfaithfulness is a serious problem. It reaches far beyond the marriage covenant. Unfaithfulness is common in the workplace. It’s found in the life of the employee who calls in sick when they’re not, or uses work time for personal business. The manager who doesn’t use every resource he’s been given to produce the greatest profit for the owner is being unfaithful. Jesus even used that example to teach faithfulness in the parable of the talents. “The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”
But should we expect faithfulness in a faithless world? Probably not. At least not from faithless people. Back in the 18th century, George Horne wrote, When men cease to be faithful to their God, he who expects to find them so to each other will be much disappointed.
But we who have faith in Jesus Christ must model faithfulness for the rest of the world. God has called us to faithful living, and has equipped us with the indwelling power of His presence in the Holy Spirit to be able to do it.
Let me highlight a couple of areas where I think we all need to work on faithfulness. Please remember that we have already laid the foundation for faithfulness yesterday when we discovered the motivation for faithfulness – GRACE. Please put all of these items in that perspective or you will simply be ridden with guilt and will resist change.
- Faithfully Persevere in Ministry – Years ago, a veteran missionary was returning home to the U.S. after several terms on the field. Aboard a ship bound for New York harbor, a secularist challenged him by pointing out the futility of giving one’s life in missionary service. He continued by noting that no one on board ship was paying any attention to the veteran missionary, a sign they apparently considered his efforts quite wasted. The servant of God responded, “I’m not home yet.” The agnostic assumed the missionary was referring to a large crowd that would meet the ship, and he scoffed again when they disembarked—not a solitary person welcomed the missionary. Once again, the missionary said, “I’m not home yet.” A lonely train ride lay ahead as he made his trek from New York City to his small Midwestern hometown. Reaching his destination, the missionary could no longer fight back the tears as the train pulled off. Again, he stood alone. It was then that the inner voice of God’s Spirit brought comfort by reminding the faithful servant, “You’re not home yet.”
- Faithful church attendance and ministry involvement – All God asks is that we apply the same standards of faithfulness to our church activities that we would in other areas of our life. If your car started one out of three times, would you consider it faithful? If the paperboy skipped Monday and Thursdays, would they be missed? If you didn’t show up at work two or three times a month, would your boss call you faithful? If your refrigerator quit a day now and then, would you excuse it and say, “Oh, well, it works most of the time.” If your water heater greets you with cold water one or two mornings a week while you were in the shower, would it be faithful? If you miss a couple of mortgage payments in a year’s time, would your mortgage holder say, “Oh, well, ten out of twelve isn’t bad”? If you miss worship and attend meetings only often enough to show you’re interested but not often enough to get involved, are you faithful?
- Faithfully represent Christ in everyday life and lifestyle – An author in Leadership has written, The story we’re called to tell and live and die by is one of risk confronted, death embraced. What’s more, Jesus calls us to walk the narrow way, take up a cross with him, daily. It’s terribly risky business. Ask that bright company of martyrs that quite recklessly parted with goods, security, and life itself, preferring to be faithful in death rather than safe in life. (William H. Willimon) Don Wildman of the American Family Association said it this way – At the very heart of the Christian gospel is a cross—the symbol of suffering and sacrifice, of hurt and pain and humiliation and rejection. I want no part of the Christian message which does not call me to involvement, requires of me no sacrifice, takes from me no comfort, requires of me less than the best I have to give. The duty of a Christian is to be faithful, not popular or successful.
I must stop there, although we have only scratched the surface on this subject. Let me close with this challenge. The Marine motto is Semper Fi, which is Latin for “Always Faithful. In November of 1990, Newsweek magazine ran an article titled “Letters in the Sand,” a compilation of letters written by military personnel to family and friends in the States during the Gulf War. One was written by Marine Corporal Preston Coffer. He told a friend, “We are talking about Marines, not the Boy Scouts. We all joined the service knowing full well what might be expected of us.”
We are in the service of the King. Semper Fi.