Life’s Simple Seven! What enables growth?
Perseverance - See life through God’s eyes!
On your chair is an Easter Weekend Invitation card! I have two favors. I need some people to come to either the Saturday Night 6:00PM service or the 9:00A.M Sunday worship time to free up space in the 11:00A.M service! / Aubre Rice’s $20 challenge!
I have a few stories to tell and all share a common theme. Let’s see if you can determine the theme? In October 2011, 94 year old Gordon Yeager and his wife, 90 year old Norma, died exactly one hour apart after 72 years of marriage. They were holding hands when they died. The couple left their home in Marshalltown, Iowa, to run some errands, but a car accident sent them to the emergency room instead. When they were transferred to the Intensive Care Unit the nurses knew not to separate them. When it became clear that their conditions were getting worse, the nurses moved them into a room together in beds side-by-side so they could hold hands. Gordon died at 3:38 P.M. holding hands with his wife as the family surrounded them. At 4:38 p.m., exactly one hour after Gordon died, Norma passed away too. Their son Dennis said, "They just loved being together …. In the end, they chose each other, and that was it. They were committed."[i]
At a high school, a group of students played a prank: they let three goats loose inside the school. But before turning them loose, they painted numbers on the sides of the goats: 1, 2, and 4. School administrators spent most of the day looking for No. 3.[ii]
Duane Gray and I met Ken Prunty this past Thursday. Ken is 46 and has spent ½ his life in prison - 23 years in prison. He went to prison for taking another person’s life, but the need for heroin led him to make that decision. ONE MORE! A minister, his wife and their two kids were invited to attend a cousin's high school graduation. Dad thought he'd prepare his kids. "Hey, graduations are sometimes long, boring events. I want you guys to behave and not ask constantly when it's going to be over." His daughter replied. "Don't worry, Dad, we'll live. We last through all your sermons, don't we?"
Did you figure out our common theme? Maybe the Apostle Peter can help? Turn in your Bibles today to 2 Peter 1! Do you need a Bible or message outline today? May I offer just a friendly reminder to Spring Forward next Saturday Night, March 9 or you’ll be late everywhere you go next week! According to the Apostle Peter here’s Life’s Simple Seven. Let’s start again with verse 3! (Read 3-6a) ...and to self-control, perseverance;
Gordon & Norma Yeager were married for 72 years. I’m sure every moment was “happily ever after.” Did you catch my sarcasm? You know that’s not true. Marriage requires commitment, friendship and trust. Marriage demands perseverance. School administrators have so much to do! Educating students! Fielding compliments & complaints from parents. The last thing they need is to be searching for mysterious Goat #3. If your job requires you to work with people you can’t do it well without perseverance. What about Ken Prunty! Ken spent 23 years behind bars. Ken admitted that he thought he’d never get out. He sat before a parole board six times and each time thought it was a waste of time. Ken thought about giving up. Many prisoners do. But he didn’t and several people didn’t give up on him. One, a Catholic priest, led him to place his faith in Christ! John & Fran Phillips sent him notes and scripture verses which encouraged him. A prison warden provided detox and then found him a home after he was released. A place called Serenity Street Foundation in our back yard - Columbus, Ohio! Ken persevered and is now helping other men at Serenity Street become free by trusting in Christ and being held accountable to make better choices in life.
Any parents in the room? Does parenting require perseverance? "Don't worry, Dad. We'll live. We last through all your sermons, don't we?" How true is this? I never doubted my Mom’s love for me, but some days I knew she didn’t like me! Our one common theme is perseverance. When I read this list from Peter it makes me think of a ladder. Now faith is not a rung. Faith is our foundation. The first rung is goodness! The second is knowledge. The third is self-control. The fourth is perseverance. Man, the view from up here is much better than the view done there. Why is that?
Peter tells us that we will not grow as apprentices of Jesus Christ unless we add perseverance! Let’s climb the ladder again! Faith is belief. Goodness is moral excellence. Knowledge is a deep understanding of Jesus. Self-control is funny to me. It should be called God-control. This past week I kept thinking about buying a bag of Mounds Candy Bars and then dangling them in front of Mark Stier’s face every time I saw him! That’s what Satan does to us! Truly it isn’t self-control as much as us allowing God to control our passions! And then there’s perseverance. The King James uses the word patience. The Message uses “Passionate patience.” Perseverance is patient endurance or steadfastness. Consider this! Perseverance is “the New Testament characteristic of a person who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose and loyalty to faith in God by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”[iii]
Using that definition where are you tempted right now to swerve away from God? Is it your job, your marriage, your family, or your faith? Maybe this will help. You can’t apply until you know why! How many letters did Peter write? Two! Letter #1’s purpose was to encourage! Grow in your faith! They were suffering physically. People were dying and death starts to get to you! At 5:00PM this past Friday, March 1, the Newtown (Conn) Christian Church launched 26 Hours of Prayer. One hour of prayer for the families of each person who died! Here’s their prayer schedule! I think that’s a wonderful idea, but may I be brutally honest! That entire tragedy just depresses my soul! It didn’t have to happen, but it did! So what do we do in the face of death? Do we swerve away from God or do we run right at Him? Do we run away or choose to persevere? Over the years I’ve had the privilege of conducting many funerals. May I sum up for you every single funeral message you have been to or will attend? You will hear one of two messages. Message #1: This person was great, but that’s it. OR Message #2: That person was great, but there’s more! That’s what Peter is saying to all of us today! In spite of your own impending death or worse than that, the death of someone you love, choose to persevere and you’ll GROW!
Peter also wrote a 2nd letter. The purpose of this letter was to WARN! Grow in the grace & knowledge of Jesus. Don’t stop persevering in your knowledge of Jesus. Why does Peter emphasize knowledge so much? Let’s go back to Peter’s list of seven on the wall. If you were describing yourself as a person or better yet as a Christ follower could you use this list? This list is everything the false teachers were NOT! Go to chapter 2 and find verse 2! (2-3) Can I give you one? Jesus is not coming back! The 2nd coming of Jesus is a joke because we’re not even sure he was for real the first time around! So Peter’s warning is clear! Persevere! When it comes to this book. Patiently endure! When it comes to the teachings of Jesus. Remain steadfast! And may I also add READ IT! Stephen Smith at OpenBible.info has been tracking Twitter to determine the top things people are giving up for Lent. Here's his top ten list: Being Pope, swearing, soda, social networking, alcohol, chips, virginity, marijuana, fast food, and Instagram.[iv] May I add one more – TIME? Sometimes you cannot add until you first subtract! We are one month away from Easter! Why not spend time this month reading what Jesus did and said. You pick – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John! Here’s another option - a golden opportunity begins Sunday night! Watch this! (The Bible Miniseries Promo) Mark Burnett & Roma Downey produced this series because they want people to know the Bible isn’t an ordinary book! But Greg, I just don’t understand what I read? Persevere! Keep reading anyway and you’ll GROW!
Peter isn’t the only Bible author who encourages perseverance. It’s Peter, Paul, (Mary) James & Jesus! The Apostle Paul said this in Romans 5:3&4! Turn maybe 4 pages to your left. Find James 1! Read 2-4, 12! I want that crown! Better yet, I want to experience God’s blessing NOW - in this life. Find James 5:11. Job is a phenomenal example, but he isn’t the best example! Are you still in James? Go a few more pages to the left. Find Hebrews 12:1! Why should I do that Greg? It’s what Jesus did for me/for us! It makes no difference if this life is crummy or good. We are all sinners, which is why Jesus chose to persevere. Look at verse 2. Let’s take communion right now. Servers would you prepare for communion? As you pick up the piece of bread and sip the cup of juice remember that Jesus persevered for your life & for mine! (Pray/Communion Slides) One more verse! Hebrews 12:3! Are you weary today? Remember Jesus! Better yet, come to Him! Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest!
[ii] http://www.gcfl.net/ February 21, 2013
[iii] Logos, Perseverance, 2 Peter 1:6, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon
[iv] www.preachingtoday.com / News That Illustrates, 2/25/2013 / Lent