Saturday, October 04, 2014

Life Is Not Always Easy

October 5, 2014II Corinthians 4:8-11

Life Is Not Always Easy

Intro.: Some people seem to have all the luck.i
  1. True for Christians and non-Christians.
  2. Horatio Spafford was such a man
  3. A great deal went right for this man
    1. Here is a lawyer and businessman – a successful business man
    2. Besides being affluent he was also influential in his hometown of Chicago
    3. He had invested in the land along the Lake Michigan shoreline and what is now known as the miracle mile. Real estate was his thing.
    4. He was a solid Christian -
    5. A family man with a wife, a son, and three daughters.
    6. - and though he lived in a previous century, he was a close friend of D. L Moody.
  4. I'll say it again, some people have all the luck.
  5. But there is a problem – luck comes in two forms – Good Luck and Bad Luck
  6. To this point, Horatio Spafford had experience good luck.
  7. But in the year 1870 life took a turn – a wrong turn some would say.
    1. Spafford's four year old son contracted scarlet fever and died
    2. A year later Mrs. O'Leary's cow tipped over a lantern and destroyed much of metropolitan Chicago, in the great Chicago Fire
    3. His family lost everything – their investments and their home were gone.
    4. Spafford and and his wife spent the next three years working to rebuild Chicago ...
  8. but as you might guess, it was tiring and they needed a break and a change of scenery.
    1. It was decided to take a European vacation
    2. a vacation that would include working alongside their friend D. L. Moody during a London crusade and his favorite song leader, Ira Sankey.
  9. Plans were made
    1. They would travel to NYC and plan to catch a ship to England – the Ville de Havre.
    2. They arrived in NYC as planned; but before they could depart, the father received a telegram asking him to return to Chicago to complete a transaction.
    3. It was arranged for the rest of his family to leave as scheduled, Horatio Spafford would travel to Chicago and return to catch a later ship for England.
    4. Nine days after returning to Chicago, Horatio received another telegram “Saved Alone”.
      1. Their boat had been struck by another passign ship
      2. 226 people were lost at sea – including the Spafford's four remaining girls: Annie, Maggie, Bessie, and Tanetta all drowned.
      3. Anna the wife had grabbed hold of a plank and managed to stay afloat until a rescue could be made.
      4. She sent the telegram - “Saved Alone.”
  10. Horatio started back to NY and caught the first ship he could back to England.
    1. As Horatio's ship approached the site where his family's ship went down, the captain called Horatio up to the bridge
    2. He stood silently with the captain for a short time ..
    3. and then returned to His cabin.
    4. In the solitude of his cabin he pulled out a notebook and penned the words to the hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”.
  11. I hope none you, I hope that none of us have to go through an experience like Horatio Spafford and his wife Anne had, but I do expect that each of us will have days or times when we may feel like we have gone through such an experience.
  12. But you are not alone – listen to Paul's words...
Read: II Corinthians 4:8-11


Trans: I have always found Corinth to be an interesting site.
  1. Actually, the town still exists today – about three miles away from the site that Paul had visited
  2. That site was destroyed by an earthquake in 1858 – providing a well-known site and for archaeologists to explore.
  3. In some ways Corinth stands in stark contrast to the city of Philippi – Sometime next winter or spring I want spend some time exploring the book of Phillipians – my favorite book.
  4. Why is Philippians my favorite book – because it was the letter that Paul wrote to the healthiest church that we know of – not perfect, but healthier than chruches that we know of elsewhere.
  5. At the time that Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church, it was by far the unhealthiest church to which he wrote.
    1. Sexual sin was rampant in the city
    2. The city known to Paul had dozens of temples and shrines dedicated to the Greek gods that we are familiar with - as well as others: Apollo, Athena, Aphrodite, Demeter and Kor.
    3. There were also sites sit aside for worship the Egyptian Gods of Isis and Sarapis.
    4. It was also a center of wealth – that seemed to be stumbling block to the early believers of the area.
  6. But there were changes between the time of the first letter and the time of the second letter, that we read this morning.
  7. Paul could celebrate their growth as they sought to follow Jesus -
  8. They were not perfect, they still had to grow, but they certainly more closely resembled the body of Christ that was Paul's ideal.
  9. Paul's first letter was one of correction and warning; his second letter was a letter of praise and support.
T.S. In this short passage, Paul challenges two misconceptions that Christian or other might have about the church.
  1. Mistake #1 – The Christian's life is going to be easy.
    1. Paul has a list of problems still faced by Corinthian church.
      1. We are afflicted in every way
      2. Perplexed
      3. Persecuted
      4. Stuck Down
    2. Eugene Peterson created a translation for adults that had either not spent much time in God's word or had spent so much time in the Word of God that it had lost its vitality, its power. Listen to Eugene Peterson's translation:
You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.ii
    1. If the early church could not avoid trouble, if Paul could not avoid trouble, what makes us think we can avoid it.
    2. The story of Horatio Spafford is not unusual – it could be any of ours.
    3. But in the middle of whatever difficulty life throws our way, we can know that God will be there.
  1. Mistake #2 – The Christian's life is going to be overwhelmingly hard
    1. There is another mistake that people make about Christianity.
    2. There seems to be this unwritten rule that says, “God will make like life tough just to test me.
    3. Or, on a similar theme, there are those that are convinced that if they say “Yes” to Jesus, they have started a journey
      1. to the jungles of Peru
      2. to deepest Africa (or even Ebola crazed Africa)
      3. to some remote island in the Pacific filled with hungry cannibals
    4. God has sent the church … that does not mean every one of us is called to go.
(Ill.) I am reminded of Jesus' words, Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I do not know what God might ask of each of us. I do know this, he will give me, he will give you, no more than we can handle.
  1. The Truth – The Christian serves God whatever the outcome
    1. And that is really what Paul is trying to communicate to the church in Corinth – God will see us through whatever comes, He will be present wherever He sends us, We will never be alone.
(Ill.)   Theodore Steinway was a well known philatilist from the 1950s. He was also a piano craftsman from the Steinway family. He noted that it is the ten to twenty tons of pressure exerted on the two hundred thirty strings of a piano that creates beautiful harmony. Sometimes, it is only the pressure, the persecution we undergo that causes a song to resonate in the hearts of those with whom we share. Paul knew this.

          That is why he could say, We are “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”iii
    1. The bottom line is this
      1. God does not call us to make life easy
      2. God does not call us to make life hard
      3. God does call us to serve Him and then gives us what we need to do what He asks.



iMuch of this story is taken and modified from Beach, Shelly (2012). It Is Well With My Soul. “Section 1: Devastation, Doubt, and Deliverance”. Discovery House. Grand Rapids, MI.

iiPeterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. Print.

iiiCourson, J. (2003). Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (p. 1115). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

A Prayer For The Saints

September 28, 2014Colossians 1:11-14
A Prayer for the Saints

Intro.: Oswald Smith

The year was 1920. The scene was the examining board for selecting missionaries. Standing before the board was a young man named Oswald Smith. One dream dominated his heart. He wanted to be a missionary. Over and over again, he prayed, “Lord, I want to go as a missionary for you. Open a door of service for me.” Now, at last, his prayer would be answered.
When the examination was over, the board turned Oswald Smith down. He did not meet their qualifications. He failed the test. Oswald Smith had set his direction, but now life gave him a detour. What would he do? As Oswald Smith prayed, God planted another idea in his heart. If he could not go as a missionary, he would build a church which could send out missionaries. And that is what he did. Oswald Smith pastored The People’s Church in Toronto, Canada, which sent out more missionaries than any other church at that time. Oswald Smith brought God into the situation, and God transformed his detour into a main thoroughfare of service.i
  1. During the next few minutes I want to spend a few minutes speaking about a prayer – a specific prayer.
  2. Let me read to you a passage from the book of Colossians that includes Paul's prayer for that local church.
Read: Colossians 1:9-14


Trans: I sometimes like to read prayers.
  1. Most often this will be the short prayers found at the bottom of the page of a devotional.
  2. But sometimes I like to thumb through a book of classic prayers from some of the world's great believers – men like Augustine, St. Francis, John Calvin, John Wesley, or Billy Graham.
  3. Many believers have said they would like to have heard Jesus, Peter or Paul preach. But it would have been awesome to hear them pray as well.
  4. We can't hear them pray, but they have been kind enough to include some of their prayers in their letters to the churches.
  5. Such is the case for the passage we just read.
  6. Colossae
    1. was a small agricultural village in what is now Southwestern Turkey. As best we can tell, Paul never had the chance to visit, though he writes to Philemon a bit later that he really would like to.
    2. Their major commodity were the unique woolen textiles that came from the region.
    3. The town no longer exists, but archaeologists have discovered ruins that are certainly part of the infrastructure that was part of the community.
    4. But to Paul it was not the agriculture or the textiles that made Colossae stand out – rather it was there faith.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel,
    1. So as we open up Colossians 1:9-14, we look at Paul's prayer for this group of Christians
    2. let's see what it can teach us

T.S. Let's look at the three main parts of Paul's sermon.

  1. Part 1 of the prayer – asking God to fill the church with His will
(Ill.)     David Slagle, a pastor in Atlanta, GA, told the story of a friend of his. few years ago, I got a call from a girl in my church who said her car had broken down and left her stranded about two miles from the office. So I drove over there and found her leaning against her car, looking flustered.

            I asked what happened.

            “Well, I was just driving down the road, and the car quit running,” she said.

            “Could you be out of gas?” I asked.

            “No, I just filled it up.”

            Well, that one question pretty well exhausted my automotive diagnostic abilities, but I persisted. “What happened? Did it make any noise?”

            “Oh, yeah,” she replied. “As I was driving down the hill, it went brump, brump, brump, POW!”

            I asked, “When was the last time you changed the oil?”

            She said, “Oil?” As it turned out, she had owned the car for a year and a half and had never changed the oil.
    1. Just as our cars need to be kept full of oil, we too need to be full.
    2. Normally we think of the word “full” when we speak of the Holy Spirit
    3. But here Paul's prayer is that the church will be full of God's will
    4. My prayer for you, as was Paul's for the church at Colossae, is
that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
  1. Paul also wants the Colossian church to experience God's power – all of it.
(Ill.) Are You At Wit's End Corner?ii

Are you standing at “Wits End Corner”
Christian, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you,
And all you are bearing now?

Does all the world seem against you,
And you in the battle alone?
Remember at Wits End Corner
Is where God’s power is shown.

Are you standing at “Wits End Corner”
Blinded with wearying pain
Feeling you cannot endure it,
You cannot bear the strain.

Bruised through the constant suffering
Dizzy and dazed, and numb
Remember at Wits End Corner,
Is where Jesus loves to come.

Are you standing at “Wits End Corner”
Your work before you spread.
Or lying begun, unfinished
And pressing on heart and head.

Longing for strength to do it.
Stretching out trembling hands
Remember at “Wits End Corner”
The burden bearer stand.

Are you standing at “Wits End Corner”
Yearning for those you love,
Longing and praying and watching,
Pleading their cause above,

Trying to lead them to Jesus
Wondering if you’ve been true?
He whispers at “Wits End Corner”
I’ll win them as I won you.”

Are you standing at “Wits End Corner”
Then you’re just in the very spot.
To learn the wondrous resources
Of Him who faileth not!

No doubt to a brighter pathway
Your footsteps will soon be moved
But only at Wits End Corner
Is the God who is able, “proved.”

    1. Paul said it this way:May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,
    2. And that is my prayer for you as well.
  1. The third part of Paul's prayer is a prayer of thanks
      giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
    1. And it seems to me that this is where this morning's hymn comes in.
    2. Charles Wesley is saying thank you for all that God has done:
(Ill.)     The hymn that we know as Amazing Love or And Can It Be was written by the prolific hymn composer Charles Wesley. I read varying accounts to the number of songs attributed to him, but it appears to be well over 5000.

            Charles and his brother John were both ordained ministers and founded a holy group called "The Methodists" because of their methods of rising early and strict Bible study. Yet they were both caught in the trap of legalism. A mission trip to the American colony of Georgia proved to be disastrous and Charles came home broken and ill. After his return, both he and his brother made the acquaintance of Moravian Peter Bohler, who urged Charles to look more deeply at the state of his soul and who taught them about true evangelical Christianity.

            In May of 1738, once again ill, Charles read Martin Luther's book on Galatians and was convicted. He wrote, "At midnight I gave myself to Christ, assured that I was safe, whether sleeping or waking. I had the continual experience of His power to overcome all temptation, and I confessed with joy and surprise that He was able to do exceedingly abundantly for me above what I can ask or think."

            He also journaled, "I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ. I saw that by faith I stood." Two days later he began writing a hymn that many believe to be And Can It Be (Amazing Love). The hymn's words bear this theory out, especially the words of verse four.

            Let me add one more fact about this hymn – it is said that “And Can It Be” is also known as Billy Graham's favorite hymn. Perhaps it is yours as well.
    1. As we sing our final hymn, we, too, need to be thankful for what God has done for us when He sent His son to the cross.


i Brian L. Harbour, "Rising Above the Crowd" quoted in Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.Page 3. Exported from Logos Bible Software, 7:46 PM September 26, 2014.

ii Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.