How Can We Be More Faithful to God?
1 Corinthians 4:14-21 (Initial reading vs. 1-21)
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Jan. 12, 2014
*Please open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 4, as we focus on being more faithful to God.
*Our God is faithful! Revelation 3:14 tells us that Jesus Christ is "the Faithful and True Witness." And God stresses this great truth many other times in His Word.
*He is faithful. -- And He wants His people to be faithful. This is God's main message to us in today's Scripture. Our main focus will be on vs. 14-21, but in order to get a better understanding, let's start by reading the whole chapter.
*God wants His people to be faithful. Does it matter? One of the people I am looking forward to seeing in Heaven is a lady named Katie Finley. Miss Katie lived in the apartment below us when we got married. We really didn't know her all that well, but I got saved that year. And we later learned that Miss Katie had been praying for us every day for six months.
*Katie barely knew the young couple upstairs. But she faithfully prayed that God would help us find a church where we could worship Him together. And I believe with all my heart that her prayers made a difference. I will be grateful forever for the faithful prayers of Katie Finley!
*No wonder God wants His people to be faithful. And if our hearts are in the right place, we will want to be more faithful to God. But how can we do it? How can we be more faithful? Today's Scripture shows us some key steps to take.
1. First: Pay attention to the warnings in God's Word.
*In vs. 1-6, Paul talked about God's requirement for us to be faithful, how we shouldn't be quick to judge each other, and how we shouldn't be puffed up with pride against each other. In vs. 7, Paul asked some questions to remind us that every good thing we have is a gift from God. Please listen again to these pointed questions from God's Word: "Who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you glory as if you had not received it?"
*In vs. 8-13, Paul talked about how easy the Corinthians' lives had been in comparison to the apostles. Paul stressed how much more he and the other apostles had suffered for Christ. Please listen again to vs. 8-13, this time from the NLT, where Paul said:
8. You think you already have everything you need! You are already rich! Without us you have become kings! I wish you really were on your thrones already, for then we would be reigning with you!
9. But sometimes I think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor's parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world-to people and angels alike.
10. Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you are so wise! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are well thought of, but we are laughed at.
11. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, without enough clothes to keep us warm. We have endured many beatings, and we have no homes of our own.
12. We have worked wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us.
13. We respond gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world's garbage, like everybody's trash-right up to the present moment.
*Paul was really trying to give them a wake-up call. Then in vs. 14 Paul said: "I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you." This warning came from Paul as a kind word of caution. It was a loving admonition that really came from God. God wants to warn His people, and we need to pay attention to His warnings.
*Now some warnings are worthless, even ridiculous. Bob Jones is the founder of "Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch". Each year his organization holds a contest to discover the most ridiculous warning labels found on products sold in the United States. Here's a small sample of the warnings they've found:
-A sleeping pill that warns "May cause drowsiness."
-A propane torch that warned: "Never use when sleeping."
-A printer cartridge that warns "Do not eat toner."
-And a 3-hook fishing lure that says, "Harmful if swallowed." (1)
*Many of man's warnings are ridiculous, but God's warnings are always worthy and wise. We must pay attention to God's warnings. And His Word is filled with warnings for us. For example, in Galatians 6:7-10, the Word of God says:
7. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
8. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
9. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
10. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
*If you want to be more faithful to God, start paying attention to the warnings in His Word.
*In John 8:21-24, Jesus spoke to some hard-hearted unbelieving Pharisees, and the Lord gave them this solemn warning:
21. . . "I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.''
22. So the Jews said, "Will He kill Himself, because He says, 'Where I go you cannot come'?''
23. And He said to them, "You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
24. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.''
*"You will die in your sins." That is a terrifying warning. But Jesus wants the world to know the horrible fate that faces everyone who rejects the Lord. Lost people need to hear this warning, so they will turn to Jesus before it's too late.
*David Sustar tells about an evangelist who preached a revival message one night on the Horrors of Hell. God's Spirit drew the preacher's attention to three young men on the back row. And with tears running down his face, the preacher made a passionate plea for them to get saved.
*After the service he went over to the young men to ask them to come to the Lord. But before he could, one of them smirked and sarcastically asked: "Hey preacher, how far is it to hell, anyway?" The other two laughed, and they rushed out of the church. The preacher heard the tires squeal as they sped out of the parking lot.
*Just a little while later, the people were still praying down front in the church when a state trooper came in. He told them about a terrible wreck just down the road from the church. Those three young men were all killed when their car hit a big oak tree and tore in two. How far was it to hell? For those young men, it was just two and a half miles, and people all around us are getting closer every day. (2)
*Jesus said: "You will die in your sins." Lost people need to hear this warning, so they will turn to Jesus before it's too late. In 2 Peter 3:9, the Bible tells us that "The Lord is . . . longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." That's why the Lord tried to warn these Jewish Rulers. But Christians: We need to hear this warning too, so we will have more urgency about leading people to Jesus.
*How can we be more faithful to God? -- Start paying attention to the warnings in His Word.
2. But also set new goals for Godly living.
*Set new goals to follow or imitate Christ-like people. That's what the Apostle Paul urges us to do in vs. 15&16, where Paul said:
15. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
16. Therefore I urge you, imitate me.
*The original word translated "imitate" or "follow" in the KJV is where we get our word "mimic," and that's the idea. Paul stressed the same thing in Philippians 4:9, where he said: "The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you."
*This imitating is so important that here in vs. 16, Paul urges us and encourages us. He is even begging us to follow in his footsteps. He wants us to let Jesus live and shine through us, even as He lived through Paul.
*Of course the assumption is that we are Christians, and the Lord Jesus Christ is already living in our hearts. The assumption is that we have heard and believed the good news that God loves us, and sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. The assumption is that we have trusted in the good news that Jesus rose from the dead, and trusted that He will give eternal life to anyone who receives Him as Lord and Savior.
*If we are Christians, we can and should follow after anyone who is closely following the Lord. Why don't we? One reason why is because we tend to forget this goal. That's why in vs. 17, Paul said: "For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church."
*Christians: We all tend to forget at times. That's why we have to set new goals for Godly living, new goals to follow those who are closely following the Lord.
*One of Willis Moore's best examples was his Godly grandmother. Willis is inspired in a big way by something small he remembers about his mamaw: She always ate cold grits.
*You know, lots of foods taste almost as good cold as they do hot: Chicken, ham, cookies, pie. There are a lot of examples. But there are some things I never want to eat cold. Cold French fries? -- Never. And cold grits? No thank you. But Willis' grandmother always ate cold grits, even though she too preferred them hot.
*Willis explained that his grandmother would cook a hot breakfast with fresh farm eggs, crisp bacon, biscuits, homemade blackberry jelly and bowls of hot grits. The family would gather around the table. His grandfather would ask the blessing. Then, while the family was eating Grandmother would read Bible devotions to the family. When she prayed everyone stopped eating and bowed their heads.
*Afterward everyone cheerfully joined in conversation while finishing breakfast. Only then, Willis remembers, "did Grandmother start to eat her breakfast and that is why she always ate cold grits."
*Willis remembers those special mornings and the example of his Grandmother. At the time it didn't seem all that important. But as the years rolled on he came to see the significance of those cold grits. Willis has been inspired by the fact that his grandmother put God first at breakfast.
*He said: "Of course she did so in the other areas of her life, too. But the memory of her putting aside a hot breakfast to share God's Word with her family feeds me yet." (3)
*Willis is still striving to follow his grandmother's godly example. Who are the great examples God has put in your life? Set new goals to follow their footsteps.
*How can we be more faithful to God? -- Set new goals for Godly living.
3. And get a hunger for humility.
*Paul warned us against spiritual pride in vs. 18-21, where he said:
18. Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you.
19. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power.
20. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.
21. What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?
*"What do you want?" That's a question we like to hear. What do you want, Christian? It turns out there are only two possible choices here: either God's rod of discipline, or His gentle spirit of meekness. If we hunger for humility, we will see God come to us with His gentle spirit of meekness. But if we are puffed up with pride, we will get God's rod of discipline.
*Last week I mentioned my daddy asking me if I wanted a spanking. But most of the time he just asked, "Do you want me to take off my belt?" Well, I deserved 10,000 spankings in my life, but not once did I ever tell my dad, "Yeah, take off that belt and give me a good one!"
*I didn't want a spanking from my dad, and I certainly don't want one from my Heavenly Father. But the only way to avoid that spiritual spanking is to live with a humble heart before God.
*This is one of God's greatest desires for our lives. As we see in Micah 6:6-8:
6. With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7. Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams or ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8. He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
*Walking humbly with our God is one of God's greatest desires for our lives, and it will surely help us be more faithful to our God.
*God wants His people to be faithful. How can we get there?
-Pay attention to the warnings in God's Word.
-Set new goals for Godly living.
-And get a hunger for humility.
*If we do these things, we will surely be more faithful to the Lord. We can even be faithful to the end.
*Larry and Jean Elliott were faithful to the end. For 25 years they served as Southern Baptist missionaries in Honduras. Then in 2004, they faithfully answered God's call to go to Iraq as relief workers. They were dedicated to show God's love to the Iraqi people through humanitarian programs such as water purification projects.
*Shortly after arriving in Iraq, the Elliotts were travelling in a car along with three other missionaries. Suddenly, they were ambushed by terrorists. Four of the five were killed. The other missionary was severely wounded. It was the deadliest attack in the history of our International Mission Board.
*A year after the attack the Elliott's son Scott wrote a tribute letter in honor of his faithful parents. Here is part of what he said:
"Dear Mom and Dad,
March 15, 2004 began as any other day. Just four days earlier I celebrated my birthday. I was disappointed to have missed your phone call, but the sound of you two singing Happy Birthday on my voice mail was wonderful. How could I have known that those precious few words would be the last I would ever hear from you on this earth?
*We all knew when you guys set out for Iraq that it was a dangerous country. Yet your children and our spouses all felt peaceful knowing you were answering the call of God in your lives. As you often said, there is no safer place to be than in the center of God's will.
*It is an irony only those who know Jesus can understand that even in violent death, you guys were in God's will and secure in His providence over your lives. A year has now passed since that fateful day. Your children and our families are faring well. Not a day goes by that we don't think of you and long to hear your voices and feel your embrace. But we are comforted by the knowledge that you are enjoying your reward, to the glory of God, for all eternity.
*So many things I'd like to share with you. So much has happened. You are no longer here with us in body, yet your lives and your example continue to have an enormous impact on so many people. Truly you lived out Jesus' command when He said, 'Live in such a way that men may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.'
*I am grateful to God that He allowed me to see how willing and obedient, yet imperfect humans can be used by Him in such a mighty way. May He continue to be glorified through your example! Your witness, your unshakeable faith, and your steadfast commitment to Him have been such an encouragement to me as I try, through His strength, to follow His will in my own life. I'm sure countless others would say the same thing.
*I don't know if you can read this letter from where you are. I'm too mortal to understand how eternity and heaven all work. But, if you can read it, I just want to say, from the bottom of my heart, 'I love you, Mom, I love you, Dad.'
*Someday we'll be together again. Nothing can fully take away the pain and loss we still feel without you. Yet that assurance provides comfort that is real and substantial. I can't wait to see you again. It brings to mind another truth that Paul referred to when he said, 'Oh, death, where is thy victory? Oh, death, where is thy sting?'
Signed: Your son, Scott" (4)
*What a great tribute to a Christian couple who were faithful to the end.
*That's how God wants us to be! And He will surely help us. Let's ask Him to help us right now. -- Would you please bow for prayer.
(1) "Beaumont Enterprise" - 2182007 - p. 7D - Source: "In Other Words" - April, 2007 #3 - Produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - 6130 Barrington - Beaumont, Texas 77706 - www.iows.net
(2) David Holwick illustration #3159 - SOURCE: Pulpit Helps - TITLE: "How Far Is It to Hell?" - AUTHOR: T. David Sustar - PAGE: 8 - DATE: April 1995 - ENTERED: 42795 - TYPIST: Doris Schrum, secretary of Ledgewood Baptist Church, NJ
(3) "The Upper Room" - Willis H. Moore - May/June 1990 - p. 25 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "Eating Cold Grits" by King Duncan - John 14:1-4 - 2005
(4) Adapted from post on electionprojection.com by Scott Elliott at 1:10pm 03152005