Standing Firm in Shaky Times!

First Presbyterian Church of Elmer

107 Chestnut Street

Elmer, NJ 08318

Sermon Notes (Sunday May 8th, 2016)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

Standing Firm in Shaky Times!

2 Chronicles 20:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:58

 

I have been thinking what to say in my last two sermons to the congregation we love and to a family we will always appreciate and hold deep in our hearts.  My last two sermons from this pulpit as your pastor, therefore, will take the form of a charge to us as a congregation.  Let me introduce my sermon this morning with a story that would help us grasp what I will be saying.

 

The story is told of a father and his son who were working on a double-sided puzzle.  On one side was a map of the world.  On the other side was a picture of a man.  The young boy had put the puzzle together many times before.  As his father struggled to find the right place for all the pieces to complete the picture of the world, his son told him to turn the pieces over, because he had found it was much easier to put the puzzle together by concentrating on the picture of the man.  Finishing the puzzle quickly, the boy told his father, “See, DadWhen you get the man right, the world is right.”

 

The apostle Paul wanted to make sure that the Church in Corinth gets the MAN right, so that they also get the world right.  In 1 Corinthians 15:58 Paul charges the Church in Corinth to stand firm in shaky times.  He says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firmLet nothing move youAlways give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  The charge here is two-fold: (1) to stand firm and at the same time (2) to keep moving and working.  It is kind of interesting to think about paradoxical statements ~ stand firm and keep moving.  When is the last time you had “jumbo shrimp” or used the word “bittersweet”?  Think about this statement: “Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore because it’s always too crowded.”  Or my favorite, “Down deep he or she is a shallow person.”  Today’s sermon passage is a bit paradoxical.  At the end of one of the greatest chapters in God’s Word, Paul tells us to stand firm and keep moving!  Let me briefly share a couple short observations based on the Scripture passages from 2 Chronicles and 1 Corinthians:

 

First: Stand Firm

The first action we are told to take based on the fact that through Christ we can have victory even over death is to stand firm.  Paul wrote, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firmLet nothing move you.”  Paul began this verse with the word “therefore.”  That word is extremely important because it includes everything Paul has written in this great resurrection chapter ~ 1 Corinthians 15.  Jesus lives!  This is the truth we encounter in 1 Corinthians 15.

 

Because He lives, we can stand firm.  Because He lives, you and I can remain firm and unchanging in an ever-changing world.  Paul has just talked about the great victory we have in Jesus.  “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.”  We have to know that the church in the city of Corinth was one that had many struggles.  It was located in Greece so the majority of the people were gentiles.  They did not really care about the Christian faith.  Corinth was a very rich ciy, extremely wicked, and a major center of idol worship with a host of temple male and female prostitutes.  They were a sports center and hosted games to rival the Olympics.  Paul looks at the power that dwells and works in the believer lives, and charges the Corinthians to stand firm and let nothing move them.  In 1 John 4:4, the apostle John says, “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the ONE who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

 

Second: Abounding in God’s Work

Paul is not finished with the first charge to the Church in Corinth to “stand firm.”  He continues, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  Paul doesn’t just tell us to hunker down with God’s Word.  He tells us to move, to be active in our faith.  “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.”  Literally he tells us to abound in the work of the Lord.  He is talking about being busy and tireless in the work we do for the Lord, to do more than would be expected.  It’s like we wake up in the morning and say, “Here I am, Lord, reporting for duty.  What do you want me to do today?  I am ready to give You my all.”

 

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine sent me a great prayer that I still keep in my Bible.  It says, “Savior, I commit my head, my heart, my tongue, my hands, my feet, my strength, my love, my all to You this day.  Make me Your instrument of grace.  Empty me of self-esteem and fill me with Your Spirit.  May all who meet me this day meet You, not me.  Amen.”  God wants us to live our life with one aim: to do the will of our loving Heavenly Father.  We do that with all the strength God gives us.

 

The most encouraging thing here is that as we give ourselves to the work of the Lord, we know that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.  In other words, it’s not empty or useless.  There are so many times when our service to the Lord seems like it’s worthless.  Maybe a friend dismisses what we say or a neighbor doesn’t notice the kindness we show to them.  Perhaps it’s even worse than that; perhaps we get ridiculed for doing what’s right.  God promises to use our work for His good purposes.  Our labor for the Lord is never in vain.

 

Preacher and Evangelist F.B. Meyer (1847-1929) wrote about two Germans who wanted to climb the Matterhorn.  They hired three guides and began their ascent at the steepest and most slippery part.  The men roped themselves together in this order: guide, traveler, guide, traveler, guide.  They had gone only a little way up the side when the last man lost his footing.  He was held up temporarily by the other four, because each had a toehold in the niches they had cut in the ice.  But then the next man slipped, and he pulled down the two above him.  The only one to stand firm was the first guide, who had driven a spike deep into the ice.  Because he held his ground, all the men beneath him regained their footing.  F.B. Meyer concluded his story by drawing a spiritual application.  He said, “I am like one of those men who slipped, but thank God, I am bound in a living partnership to Christ.  And because He stands, I will never perish.”

 

Friends, as we stand firm, and as we always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord, we have the privilege of both bringing glory and honor to Christ and the joy of helping other people to also stand firm.  “So stand firm,” says the apostle Paul to the Church in Corinth and to us.  “Stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you,” said King Jehoshaphat to the Israelites as in 2 Chronicles 20:17 as they faced dangers and threats from the Moabites and Ammonites.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.  Because you know that your labor is not in vain.  Never in vain.  Why?  Because He lives!  Amen.

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