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Persevering in Times of Trouble

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Persevering in Times of Trouble

Text:  Revelation 3:1-6

Big Idea:  Wake up to enjoy vibrant life in Christ.

Purpose:  To cause people to reassess the vitality of their walk with Go, and to move them to

            greater commitment if vibrancy is lacking.

Introduction:

      A United Press release in a Midwestern city told of a hospital where officials discovered that the fire-fighting equipment had never been connected. For 35 years it had been relied upon for the safety of the patients in case of emergency. But it had never been attached to the city’s water main. The pipe that led from the building extended 4 feet underground—and there it stopped!

The medical staff and the patients had felt complete confidence in the system. They thought that if a blaze broke out, they could depend on a nearby hose to extinguish it. But theirs was a false security. Although the costly equipment with its polished valves and well-placed outlets was adequate for the building, it lacked the most important thing—WATER!

            This hospital felt very secure

                        -because it had all the accoutrements

                                    -valves, hoses, training

                        -but they were plugged into the water 

            Have you ever seen someone just going through the motions of faith?

                        -yet had little connection to Christ?

                        -maybe even sincerely believing that they were giving their best

                        -that they had the assurance of where they stood

            They may have had the accoutrements of faith

                        -church, memory, knowledge

                        -but connection to Christ had been severed

            In their false security

                        -they may have been missing what they needed most.

This morning,

            We are going to consider what Christ had to say to a church in Sardis

            -a church that seemed to have the right stuff

                        -no heresies, no giving in to the world

            But Jesus tells this church – you are dead

                        -Your accoutrements do not connect you to the source of life

Perhaps, in this church

            -we run the risk of seeing a reflection

            -lives that have some of the marks of faith

                        -maybe even a monument to faith in earlier days

How do we come to Christ

            When our faith lacks vitality?

What do we do

            -when our lives are not connected to the giver of life?

            -despite the appearance of faith?

Sermon Body:

*Sardis was a city known for falling asleep.

            -cite impregnable fortress that was a monument

            -at one time, Sardis had been a great city on a hill

                        -which was a great location

                        -only one way to enter

                        -steep drop off

                        -almost impossible to attack

            -Years before Christ was born, this city suffered

                        -not once, but twice

            -because the citizens fell into the illusion that their location

                        -made it impossible for anyone to attack them

*The Church at Sardis is accused of being incomplete in their faith.

            -first letter with no commendations nor heresies

                        -In other words, Christ had no encouragement for this church

                        -nothing that He wanted to say “well done” about

                        -they had deeds – but incomplete – not fully done

            Illustration:

                        -have you ever seen this?

                        -people who do the deed they are asked to do, but incomplete

            Paul – compares ministry to a race

            I Corinthians 9:24

                        - Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?

                        Run in such a way as to get the prize.

                        -you can run a race – merely to finish

                        -walk, jog, leisurely pace

                        -and then you see people who push  

                                    -but Paul says run to win

            The Church at Sardis

                        -had forgotten again, the urgency of this Gospel ministry

                        -and they were running, doing the deeds

                                    -but not running to win

            If you and I were to meet the people in the church at Sardis

                        -we might have a favorable opinion

                                    -nice group of people

                                    -a little lackluster in ministry   

It’s not necessarily true that they had always been lackluster

            -they were also the first letter with no warning of heresy

            -they had probably had a glory day of ministry

                        -but people started going in cruise control

A Word about heresy

            -while we want people to know the truth

            -when you see heresy arising – at least people are thinking about their faith

                        -taking God seriously

                        -It’s sad if someone never asks tough questions about faith

                                    -and this church – stopped asking tough questions

*It is very easy to rest on our reputations.

            -man becomes movement becomes machine becomes monument

                        -most churches start – with passion

                        -around of group of people who are enthused

                                    -and they create a contagious energy for Christ

                                    -and others are drawn to it

                                    -they create programs, ministries

                                                -and many times – maintaining the ministries becomes focus

                                                -rather than that contagious enthusiasm for serving Christ

                        -At that point, church becomes a monument, rather than a ministry

                                    -that is what had happened at Sardis

                                                -a testimony to what had once been a great church

            In our lives, we don’t want to settle for monuments of faith

            It is tempting, with this passage

                        -to apply it to today, by evaluating churches

                                    -and might be some value in that

                                    -but it is really hard to evaluate a group of people

                                                -even at Sardis, some were faithful – really running the race

            For us, we should look at our lives

                        -evaluate our response to Christ

                        -are we monuments of faith, or living ministries?

            Today, Levi – received the sign of baptism

                        -a sign of God’s faithfulness

                        -it might be tempting for him to say someday

                        “I was baptized; dad was a deacon, grandpa a pastor”

                                    -I must be OK

            -All of the observations are true

                        -and Levi is receiving a rich heritage in Christ

                        -a true blessing

            -But our purpose today was not to construct some kind of monument

                        -merely to thank God for what He did in the past

            But rather

                        -to pray to God

                        -for ongoing life

                        -the vitality of faith in Levi – himself

            And our promises

                        -not mere ritual

                        -words that signify a commitment     

            We are not satisfied with a sign of water and words of a pastor

            -we will work to see this life transformed

            -to see this young life grow in Christ

                        -in the hope, that He will live for Christ

                        -be a living testimony

                        -offer himself as a living sacrifice – holy and pleasing to God

            That is a high standard for such a little fella

                        -but we are satisfied with nothing less

                        -because church is not a business of making monuments

                                    -empty accoutrements

                        -but of showing LIFE in Christ

*Faith that feels free from danger is not necessarily thriving in Christ.

            -we live in a world that is hostile to the gospel

            -and although we want a shelter, sanctuary, to meet with God

                        -freedom from any outside influence is not a sign of thriving in Christ

                        -this church – had no heresy, but no life either

            -in fact, we often find that vitality in Christ as we engage the world

                        -and it becomes contagious

            -that is why I am excited about trip to Trinidad – to see what God will do

Give some signs for today that you may be suffering from spiritual lethargy:

(not a comprehensive list – just some food for thought from Pastor Bill)

            -can’t think of a way you serve Christ (don’t have an answer for that question)

                        -even if it is normal service – should be aware in your mind that service is for Him

            -more worried about the judgments of others that efforts to please God

                        -fear of doing something wrong can paralyze service

                        -people who fear failure, often fail to make an effort

            -glory days of faith are in the past

                        -more remembering than anticipating

                                    -regardless of age – if you are in Christ, no way you have seen best days

                        -memory is part of faith, but best is yet to come

            NOT A COMPREHENSIVE LIST BY ANY MEANS

                        -if you feel like you are going through the motions

                        -turn to Christ – ask Him to enliven your walk with Him

                                    -but be ready, He just might do that

*Jesus calls those with lethargic faith to:

            1.  Remember

                        -stories, who you met

                        -when you remember the grace of Jesus

                        -it makes you realize what you want to be

                        -why we tell stories, meet regularly – not because you don’t know

                                    -to help you remember

            2.  Obey

                        -not just a mental exercise

                        -but put into action

            3.  Repent

                        -turn away from lethargic faith

                        -repent is not first – usually is

                        -remember and obey – turning to Christ, and away from sleeping faith

Conclusion:

            Truth of life – danger in being on top – prematurely thinking you have achieved your goal

            Business – record sales – stops innovating – eventually slip

            Sports Team – ranked number 1 – regular season record – loses in the playoffs

            Lotto Winner – has all kinds of money – spends it wildly – ends up bankrupt

            Common Factor

                        -they stop pursuing the goal – settled for something less

                        -and ironically, lost what they thought they had

            In Christ

                        -we can run the risk of settling for something that looks good today

                                    -a ministry success, a prayer answered, a new insight about God

                        -and stop pursuing Him

            Remember

            Obey

            Repent

            Run the race for the eternal goal, the prize is yet to come.

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