Steadfast – Your labour in the Lord is not in vain

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Transcript

Hi there thanks for being with us today, I’m so glad that you’re here! Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, make yourself at home. Whether you’re part of Festival Church or just checking things out, you are most welcome today. Please say hello in the chat, there’ll be plenty of people that would love to say hello back and get to know you. I’m looking forward to spending a few minutes with you now, looking at a few verses from the Bible together.

I can’t believe it’s the last Sunday of January already, we’re about to embark on a whole new month in 2021 and today we draw our current mini theme to a close. For January, we’ve been looking through the verses that we find at the end of 1 Corinthians chapter 15. And yes, if you’ve been here for a couple of weeks, or if you’ve been tuning in regularly, you’ll probably know these off by heart by now.

57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIVUK

We’ve called this mini theme our Steadfast theme and as we were planning it in the back end of last year, we just felt it was a really important theme to get our teeth into. So much around us is uncertain, and it seems even more uncertain at the moment – we’re living through a particularly difficult time of history. In this kind of Covid season, in other countries there seems to be political unrest, who knows what the implications of Covid are going to be. My guess is they’re going to be far reaching and challenging. So it just felt really right and actually kind of felt in our hearts that God would just want to remind us to be steadfast to stand firm in him. Which is why we started off the month, started off the year, with those great words “But thanks be to God, He gives us the victory”. If nothing else this year, if you don’t remember anything else, come back to these verses and start off with thanksgiving. Reminding yourself that there’s so much to be thankful for from God and actually because of Jesus, because of the resurrection, we can live a life that is hallmarked by his victory and that just touches everything we do. We carry this winning attitude because of the resurrection of Jesus. Whatever that is on your plate today or for the rest of this year, keep bringing everything to Him, keep giving Him thanks. Remembering that ultimately that you and I have the victory in Jesus.

Whatever that is on your plate today or for the rest of this year, keep bringing everything to Him, keep giving Him thanks. Remembering that ultimately that you and I have the victory in Jesus. Click To Tweet

There are some great words that we’ve been looking at, great phrases and sentences here. I spoke a couple of weeks back about standing firm in God. That’s that steadfastness. Kaz spoke brilliantly on “let nothing move you”, about being immovable. Last week, I delved into giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord and was in many ways surprised at how simple that is – Jesus said that “the work of God is to believe in the one that God sent”. I need to believe in Jesus and I hope you got something out of that. If you weren’t here last week, don’t worry you can catch up on these preaches by just going on the website. But as we draw this theme to a close, we’re just going to land on this last line:

Because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIVUK

Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, that says that you can put everything in, you can give it 100%, you can go for this because doing the work of God is not in vain. It’s like Paul has put this in here to begin to encourage us to persevere, to be patient, to have faith, to have hope, to keep going for it, to keep taking a step at a time in following Jesus, to keep doing all we can to make the biggest difference we can for Jesus in this world, to keep growing in him. Paul is encouraging us to keep doing it, keep that work of the Lord going, keep believing in Jesus, it will pay off, it will be worth it. Every last drop of energy that you and I have and will expend in following Jesus, every last drop is worth it.

Paul says “you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain”. It won’t be wasted, it’s not futile. It can sometimes feel a bit like that. Belief in Jesus takes some effort. It’s the work of the Lord. It’s described here as labour – that sounds like hard work doesn’t it. But you can do it, we can do this, we can keep following Jesus, we can make a difference in the world. I’ve read this and straight away I thought of another famous verse in the Old Testament, I guess it’s the use of that word labour, that use of the word work as it were, and it’s in Psalm 127, let me read it to you:

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labour in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat –
for he grants sleep to those he loves. Psalm 127:1-2 NIVUK

Try and picture this, unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. I think one of the secrets of doing well in following Jesus and doing the work of the Lord, understanding that our labour that effort is not in vain, is to understand that we are building with God. Unless the Lord builds the house, it says, we’re building in vain. Unless the Lord is watching over the city, we’re standing guard in vain. But with Him, it’s worthwhile. With him, it has credibility. With him, things happen. It’s this word ‘with’, to really comprehend and grasp hold of our labour not being in vain – it’s helpful to understand that we’re working with God. God is at work in the world today. I wonder if you’re aware of that. God is on mission. His mission is the church. God is working through his church, through his people, making a difference in His world. We are just stewards and we’re here with some responsibility, working alongside our amazing God. So to do well – to really grasp hold of this, it’s helpful to understand the word ‘with’. We are co-workers with God. We are co-builders with God. Everything we do, we should understand that we do it with Him. There’s no better way to live, than to live with God.

We are co-workers with God. We are co-builders with God. Everything we do, we should understand that we do it with Him. There's no better way to live, than to live with God. Click To Tweet

It’s so encouraging – it takes the weight off our shoulders and helps to see that God has got this. We can do this. We can grasp hold of the work of the Lord in our generation. We can make him known. “With God.”

I want to share with you three verses that really encourage us in terms of doing life with Him. There are so many, I’ve had to narrow it down and the first one I want to share is just Jesus’s words actually from Matthew’s gospel, Matthew 28. This is part of Matthew’s gospel that’s labelled the Great Commission. Jesus rounds it off, He’s commissioning. Let me read it to you:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ Matthew 28:18-20 NIVUK

What a promise that Jesus is always with us. We could stop there, that is enough to fill our encouragement levels up and to fill our hearts up. Jesus is always with you. You’re not called to live life on your own. We are made to live with God. You read that throughout Scripture. It’s almost like God’s intention for us was to live with Him and Jesus reaffirms that He’s always with you, always, always, always, whatever you’re going through – the highs and the lows. Whatever you’re up to – the good and the bad – He promised He will never leave you. God is with you. What does that do for your sense of well being? Makes me take a big sigh. What does it do for that sense of outlook on the future? What does it do for your sense of hope? What does it do for your plans? Just for me, it’s like the light gets switched on, everything comes into colour. I feel I can take on the world because Jesus is always with me. No matter what I go through, the hopes and fears of all the years are met – yes in Bethlehem, but because of Jesus in Bethlehem – they are met in him. You can take steps in confidence because He’s always with you. Don’t forget that.

Here’s another great famous ‘with’ verse and I’ve actually preached on this a few times. Its Psalm 18 verse 29. Here the psalmist, David, is in a really tricky situation, he’s been running from his enemies. They’re out to kill him but then he pauses and writes this amazing song, this Psalm, he says:

28 You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.
29 With your help I can advance against a troop;
with my God I can scale a wall. Psalm 28:28-29 NIVUK

There’s that word “with my God I can”. The other verse was very much Jesus saying he’s with us. This is the other way around this is us looking up and saying “with my God”, it’s like we’re with Him. Jesus has already affirmed that He’s with us, this is coming from us now, we’re looking at Him saying “My God, we are with Him”. I actually purposely put it on the screen like this “with my God I can”. There’s so much of life that tries to tell us we can’t. There’s so much of life that tries to pull us down, to subject us to other people’s expectations and limitations, but with God, I can. Whatever is in front of you, whether it’s a hurdle, whether it’s a wall, you can overcome it because you are with God. Yes, He’s with you, but you’re firmly putting your hand in His hand and you can say that He’s your God. With your God, you can overcome whatever comes your way. Now that’s quite a statement. If this verse is true, and it’s true, I believe it is, so again whatever you’re facing, whatever difficulty life is throwing at you currently – and it tends to throw things at us most days – whether it’s I don’t know relationships, finances, promotion, work, study. There’s a whole list of things that can often present themselves as a hurdle, as a wall. But with God you can overcome.

Sometimes it feels that I’ll work for God, living for him is hard work. Well, it is sometimes, but even that you can find ways of overcoming and generating a way of living well for Him because you’re with God. Your labour in the Lord is not in vain because today you are working with Him and whatever comes in the way is actually God’s problem – yes it’s yours too, or should I say it’s God’s too, it’s a joint problem that with God you can overcome. He can give you wisdom and He can give you the resources you need, He can change the circumstances, He can bring a healing, He can bring deliverance, He can bring change. Sometimes He can just help you walk over that thing, sometimes you have to go through it to grow in Him, but He’ll be with you in that moment. Just find out from Him the best way to approach what’s in your way in this season of life.

One more verse and this is another great statement, Matthew chapter 19. I didn’t mean to use this quote from Matthew’s gospel today but never mind. Matthew 19:26 this is a famous story about the rich and the Kingdom of God. It’s got the whole eye of the needle statement about camels going through it. I know it sounds bizarre, have a read for yourself. Then in Matthew 19, in the second half of this sentence, and Jesus says:

but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26 NIVUK

The crowd are trying to get their heads around the example that he’s used about a camel going through the eye of a needle and Jesus looked at them and said

With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26 NIVUK

The thing is obviously he’s talking about a particular scenario, the context is the story that Jesus is telling him, but you know what the principle is true all the time. That nothing is impossible with God. But with God all things are possible. I heard someone talk about this and say “it doesn’t say but for God, all things are possible, it says but with God, all things are possible”. It puts you and me into the picture with God and basically you and I, with God, can experience possibilities where at face value and through just normal human outlook, things seem impossible – with God, all things are possible. Know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. Jesus says He’s with you always, you can say “with my God I can”. We can really lean into this scripture in Matthew 19 and again look at the future, look at problems that need solving, impossibilities that seem to lie before us and say “with God all things are possible”.

I speak that over your life today, I declare it about who I am and the things that I’m working through and facing, my plans for the future, our plans as a church as Festival, for whatever God has for us next over the course of this year. Yes, we’ll be steadfast in Him, but we’re always going to come at every obstacle and every challenge and say “with God all things are possible”. Let these verses fill you with hope today. Let your faith be built up, built strong. So yes, as we take February on, as we take 2021 on and the years to come, we’re going to be serving God with our whole heart. We’re going to be shouting out “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory”. We’re going to be making sure we’re standing firm, making sure that we’re immovable, that we’re giving ourselves fully to the work of the Lord – believing in Jesus – knowing that our labour in the Lord is not in vain because with God all things are possible.

Know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain. Jesus says He’s with you always, you can say “with my God I can”. Click To Tweet

So here we everyone, here are the verses again. I would encourage you to do some of your own studying and reading around these. I’ve basically just read it out to you, but let’s do it once more:

57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIVUK

Keep taking steps in his direction, keep growing in your relationship with God and allow him to unfold before you a bright future. It’s been so good to share with you today. I’m looking forward to spending the rest of our service together with you. Stay connected everyone, I’m looking forward to all that God has got for us!

This Sunday- Your labor in the Lord is not in vain New to Festival? Get Connected!

Steadfast – Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord

Got questions about life? Try Alpha This Sunday let nothing move you

Transcript

Hi everyone. Thanks for joining me today as we come together for a few minutes to look at some great verses in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians chapter 15 we’ve been working our way through these verses:

But thanks be to God, He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIV

If you’ve been able to join us over the past couple of weeks, you’ll know that we’re studying these verses, unpacking them throughout the month of January. If you’ve just stumbled across us today, or if you’re new here today, well first of all it’s so good you’re here – please make yourself at home, say hello on the chat and I’m sure you can catch up on some of what’s being said by just visiting the website.

There are some great verses here, 1 Corinthians 15 in itself is an amazing chapter, and this is kind of the end of it, Paul’s summary in these great verses we’ve been unpicking it bit by bit. We’ve had “Thanks be to God, He gives us the victory”, that’s how we started off the year. I spoke about standing firm, then last week Kaz did a great job talking about being immovable and here today I want to have a look with you at this sentence, these words here:

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord 1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV

Give that some thought for a moment, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord”. I guess if we had loads of time, all the time in the world, we could probably go word by word here. It’s all in, it’s all or nothing, every minute of every day and go for it in trying to achieve this. There’s no room really for backing away or being half hearted. It’s “always” and “fully”. It’s great and actually I think that’s how we should approach faith in God – let’s give it our best – I think that’s how we should approach life. “Always” and “fully” with the sense of giving and not taking, some great words here. But it’s not actually what I want to think about or talk about today because this sense of always and fully, this giving, is all about something – it’s about the “work of the Lord”.

'Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord'. It's all in, it’s all or nothing, every minute of every day. There's no room really for backing away or being half hearted - it's “always” and “fully”. Click To Tweet

I wonder what do you think the work of the Lord is? I’ve got a little roadwork sign here and I’ve heard lots of jokes about what this man is doing. Is he digging into a pile of sand or is he putting up his umbrella? It almost feels like there are questions around what is the work of the Lord, just like there might be questions about the guy in the picture here. What would you say is the work of the Lord? I reckon it’s worth finding out because if we’re going to give ourselves always and fully to it, it’s worth knowing what is the work of the Lord.

There are different ways we can approach this and try and find this out. It’s one of those moments where you wish that Paul, the writer, had been a bit more specific and just told us exactly what the work of the Lord is. He clearly in his own mind knows what it is. We can think about the life of Paul, do you know what his work was? Did you know that he was a tent maker? That was how he earned his living, he made tents. But I don’t think he’s saying that, he’s not saying “always give yourselves fully to making tents for Jesus”. Though, for sure, whenever you read Paul’s writing, there’s definitely the sense of whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. I don’t think he’s saying that, I think specifically in this context, Paul is probably talking about sharing the gospel, that’s the good news about Jesus.

And then building one another up, serving each other in the local church – that’s kind of a summary of Paul’s life really, that’s what he did, he went sharing the good news about Jesus and establishing churches. Perhaps specifically in this verse these words, Paul is talking about that. Do you know what I think? There’s more to it and it got me thinking. I’ve been thinking a lot about this thought, it was going to be that easy, maybe not easy, but there is some simplicity to it. I thought to myself, “Okay I want to give myself fully to the work of the Lord” – and I’m sure you do too – so what is that?

In John’s gospel, John 6, Jesus was asked this very question. He’s with a whole group of people and they asked him:

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works that God requires?”.

29 Jesus answered, The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:28-29 NIV

You couldn’t get more simple than that and straightforward. What is the work of God? What Jesus says is “to believe in the one that God has sent”. In other words, to believe in Jesus. Is that too simple? There’s something about our human nature that wants to make it a little bit more complicated, a lot more about doing stuff. What should we be doing Jesus? Jesus does answer that, but it’s not that tangible. He’s just saying the work of God is this “believe in me”. Believe in Jesus. What if Paul is referring to that? When he says “always give yourselves fully to believing in Jesus”. Could we substitute “work of the Lord” with “believing in Jesus”? I think this is really interesting and I also find it interesting exactly where Jesus is saying this. I encourage you to dig out the Bible or find your usual Bible.

John 6 is the famous story of the feeding of the 5000, Jesus feeds all these people. At the end of that bit of the story it says that he escapes everyone. He’s needing a bit of time out and it says “he withdrew again to a mountain by himself” and no one could find him. We read that the disciples got in their boat and decided they were going to go to Capernaum to see if Jesus was there. They actually went through a storm to get to Capernaum. They arrived in Capernaum and that’s where Jesus was, they were so surprised. They say in verse 25 of chapter 6 it says that when they found him on the other side of the lake, they said “Rabbi. When did you get here?” They couldn’t get over the fact the last they saw him was the other side of the lake, feeding loads of people, he kind of disappeared, they had to go through a storm and there was Jesus in Capernaum. That’s when they asked him about this, what’s the work of God?

One of the reasons my ears really pricked up when I read this again is because he’s in Capernaum. For those of you that have been tuning in over the past 6 months or so, I shared a little bit about the story of Jesus. He went into the wilderness and came back and settled in Capernaum, even though his home was in Nazareth. It got me thinking about the lockdown, this Covid season that we’re in. It’s like we’ve gone into the wilderness. I’ve been trying to see what does it mean to come out of the wilderness and settle in a different kind of landscape, not Nazareth, but Capernaum. Even in this story the disciples had to leave one side of the lake, go through a storm and end on another side of the lake and find Jesus where? In Capernaum. And what does Jesus say in Capernaum, he says “The work of God is this, believe in the one that God has sent”. As we start to look forward, have hope for the future, as we come through this storm, like the disciples came through a storm, as we come out of this wilderness season, like Jesus did, we land in Capernaum figuratively speaking.

Maybe the message that Jesus has for all of us in the new season to come, in the brighter future that we have in Him, is that maybe it’s time to realign what it means to serve God. Maybe it’s time to rediscover that the work of the Lord is, first and foremost, to believe in Jesus. To take down all our lists of things to do, all about doing this, doing that, being busy with this, doing that and judging others because they’re not quite as busy as me or you, turning up to this and reading this and that. Maybe it’s about taking a bit of a rest, maybe that’s not what you want to hear. I’m going to really question myself on that, because in many ways, I want to get going as soon as we’re out of this wilderness time. But just maybe, it will be a time to reassess what it means to serve Jesus in our world. By the sounds of it, by the sounds of Jesus’s message, we’re not going to go too wrong if we make the work of God all about belief in Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t that be great if we are defined, first and foremost, by our belief in Jesus. Nothing else, not some kind of moral standard – though that is important – not by some great work ethic – though that is important – not by some kind of success or achievement – though that’s important too.

'The work of God is this, believe in the one that God has sent' Maybe it’s time to realign what it means to serve God, maybe it’s time to rediscover that the work of the Lord is, first and foremost, to believe in Jesus. Click To Tweet

But what about you? Do you believe in Jesus today? Would you say that is the most important thing when it comes to faith, when it comes to living a Christian life. In many ways it’s no surprise that John cottons onto these words of Jesus, because for John, the writer of this gospel, belief, being a believer, is one of the big themes of his writing. If you’re like me, you might think, okay Tim, surely there’s got to be more to it? What does it mean to just simply believe in God, to believe in Jesus? That sounds really passive, it’s like some sort of acknowledgement, some distant “oh yeah, I believe in him”. There’s much more to it than that. I found a few verses that speak of what it means. Right at the beginning of John’s gospel, this is the first thing we read, the sound of a reflection on Jesus coming and says:

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God John 1:12 NIV

To believe in Jesus, to believe in the one that God has sent, means to live out of this place of relationship with Father God. It’s about your heart, it’s about my heart. The most important thing is not ticking off the list of all the things I should be doing to live a Christian life. If I can tick off one thing, it should be this, that I know my heavenly Father with all of my heart, and day by day I’m growing to love Him and know Him more and more. Everything should come out of this innocence and childlike pure faith in God. I’d like to challenge you to rediscover that childlike faith. Everything about following Jesus is about believing in Him and it comes out of this being a child of God. Understanding that, first and foremost, God is your heavenly father and He cares for you and He’s created so much of this world for you to enjoy, so that you can live and glorify Him in everything. It means we need to take more time to be with Him. To contemplate on him more and spend more time just fuelling the fire of that relationship with him. I think that this next season, this Capernaum season, is about belief in Jesus Christ.

But because we’re just naturally human, I want to get on and do some stuff too. I don’t know if you noticed but the word work is in there “the work of the Lord”, well just to help us out in terms of what we should be doing as well. Let’s not forget that all that comes out of this relationship with God, this heart for God, this heart for God as children of God, does produce action. Towards the end of the gospel too, in John 14:12, it says this about those that believe:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…John 14:12 NIV

One of the hallmarks of believing in Jesus is that we would do greater things than what He did. I went with this picture, I don’t know if you recognise it, it’s a picture of the Grand Canyon. I had the privilege of being able to visit the Grand Canyon once, it was probably this sort of time of year, about five or 6 years ago. I actually had this mad experience of being able to throw snowballs into the Grand Canyon because it had been snowing. I couldn’t quite comprehend it, it was greater than anything I’d seen before. I’d try and look down on a particular valley and I could see there was another valley beyond it. I wouldn’t be exaggerating, it blew my mind. I can’t comprehend this, and God has got such great things for you to do, greater than the things He did, can you imagine that? That believing in God started from that place of good relationship with him as children of God and leads on to doing some great things in our world for Him, as great possibly, as the Grand Canyon.

Another great place to go if we’re trying to work out what we could do is Micah, one of the Old Testament prophets. Again really simply, it just says:

… And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.Micah 6:8 NIV

If you did have to have a tick list, if you live by lists, well maybe put these three on your list: Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.

It’s a fantastic verse, but let’s not forget though, the simplicity of what Jesus said. Here’s what he said “believe in the one he has sent”. To begin – and even me saying begin it shows it’s actually even though it’s simple it’s quite difficult to grasp – because actually the truth is not just to begin but to fulfil the work of the Lord means simply believe in Jesus. How easy is that? How hard is that? It can be quite challenging. In this sort of season, we’re in, I know for lots of people that their belief in God has been challenged, for others it’s really grown.

Here are a few verses to help us out in believing in Jesus. I’ve got this picture here of a guy with some shopping bags and one of the bags is labelled belief, one is labelled unbelief. I am picturing in life that we carry these bags with us all the time. We actually end up carrying lots of baggage that we pick up from life, one’s labelled belief, one’s labelled unbelief. I think we think sometimes we should only be carrying this bag that says belief and if we’re not just full of belief all the time then maybe we’re not being good Christians. It’s not true. We all carry unbelief and belief with us. Of course, we want to see belief grow, but firstly don’t beat yourself up if you’re carrying an element of unbelief along with you in life. That’s perfectly normal and quite natural. What we have to do is make sure that we’re filling the belief bag up as much as we can. There will be some things in life where you naturally go to the belief bag but I know there are other things that really seem to challenge that and you find yourself dipping into the unbelief bag. Well, I think the first thing I want to say is just don’t beat yourself up if you’re carrying both bags. Where you are carrying both bags, maybe just learn to lean more into, to look into and to fill the belief bag.

We all carry unbelief and belief with us. We want to see belief grow, but don't beat yourself up if you're carrying an element of unbelief along with you in life. 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!' Click To Tweet

There’s a great paradox in Mark’s gospel in chapter 9 verse 24. This is where a guy comes up to Jesus and says:

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 NIV

I love his honesty. He’s saying “Oh Jesus, I believe in you” – and holds up the bag of belief – “but I’m carrying this unbelief too. I need you to help me” and Jesus has compassion on this guy. But what a statement, “I do believe, help my unbelief”. Then just to emphasize it really is that simple, in Mark chapter 5 verse 36, this is the raising of Jairus’s daughter. Everyone’s getting quite upset because things are going from bad to worse. What did Jesus say?

Don’t be afraid; just believe Mark 5:36 NIV

That’s it. Whatever you’re going through, whatever comes next, whatever you’ve been through, my message to you today is don’t be afraid, just believe. Embrace all that God has made you to be, with the unbelief and the belief, and maybe just rest. Doing the work of the Lord is quite simply what Jesus said to do, believe in Him. Begin to nurture and cultivate that relationship with Him, your heart for Him as children of God, and out of that base, begin to take those steps in finding out what He’s got for you to do. Don’t be afraid, just believe.

There’s some amazing stuff in the Bible, especially these gospels, anyway here’s our verses in Corinthians:

But thanks be to God, He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 NIV

Always give yourselves fully to believing in Jesus. Go for it! Keep taking those steps towards Him, if it’s a first step then I applaud you today. Take that step in believing in Jesus, you will not be disappointed. You will discover life as it’s meant to be lived. Well thanks for being with us today and just taking the time to come around God’s word with me, thanks for sharing this moment with me and I look forward to seeing you again soon.

This Sunday- Your labor in the Lord is not in vain New to Festival? Get Connected!

Steadfast – Immovable

Got questions about life? Try Alpha This Sunday let nothing move you

Transcript

Good morning Church, it’s a pleasure to be with you today. We’re going to carry on looking at 1 Corinthians 15:57-58, but before we go into that portion, just before the bit we are looking at is one of my most favourite bits of exciting scripture. I love the bit in 1 Corinthians 15:55

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”1 Corinthians 15:55 NIV

Maybe for me it’s more powerful because of some of the work I do (in funerals). I get this sense that whatever happens, God has the victory. The first week of the year, we were looking with Tim at Victory and how we have the victory, this is a winning year. The second week, we looked at Stand Firm and then this week we’re going to be looking at Immovable.

Immovable
The best thing that I can come up with, I’m not going to do a dictionary definition, is that everyone has seen a toddler who is immovable. I think that is a more powerful definition of what the term immovable is. I had two very powerful immovable objects as toddlers. One, particularly one, could “starfish” when getting into the car in such a way that you couldn’t get him into the car. There was this one time where my youngest son decided he was not getting into the car after pre-school and so after a couple of rounds of yes you are, I’m going to bend your body and he was doing the starfish, which you’ve all seen, and refusing to bend, I got him in the car seat. I just thought that this was a winning day. I then drove to get my other child from school, so we’re talking a few years ago now, back when you sent your children to school, those crazy heady days we used to have! I went to pick my eldest son up from school and the youngest son wouldn’t get out of his car seat, he’s now immovable in that as well. So I locked the door, like every good Mum or Dad does, and ran to the school gates and I picked up my eldest and ran back. At that moment I got back to the car, I couldn’t see my son anywhere and I, in that moment, can remember the sheer panic outside as I had thought my son had been kidnapped. I actually said “I think my child has been kidnapped”. It took me less than two minutes realise that #1 if he had been kidnapped they had also managed to move an immovable object and I would probably have heard it and #2 there is not a person in the land or in the universe who has enough mayonnaise to keep my child happy. So it wasn’t very long before I realised that he was not, in fact, kidnapped. Oh no, my immovable object child had in fact unclipped his seatbelt and decided to lie in the footwell under some coats and be immovable there. After a few moments of deep breathing exercises and almost having a heart attack at the side of the road, chaos was resumed as both sons were then in the car and we carried on with our journey.

We’re going to talk about being immovable. There’s this old spiritual song that we hear very often in protests. It says “we shall not be moved”. We will have heard it throughout the years as “we shall not, we shall not be moved, we shall not, we shall not be moved”. Do you know what’s really interesting Church? The next line from that is actually about being planted. But before we get to that, let’s look at the scripture for today, it says this:

56 The sting of death is sin,
and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God!
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord,
because you know that
your labour in the Lord is not in vain 1 Corinthians 15:55-58 NIV

This thing – being immovable, we shall not be moved. It was a chant that they would use, it’s an old slave song. We shall not be moved from this, we shall see our freedom for the civil rights movement. Actually the line carries on and it’s from Psalm 1 and I want to share this with you today, it says:

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3 NIV

We shall not be moved. We should be like the tree planted by streams of water – immovable. When you think of an immovable object, you tend to think of huge trees, you tend to think of rocks, you tend to think of men or women who can climb mountains. We saw last week the imagery was up of Luke, my husband, climbing. Notice I’ve never been photographed climbing because I am the one from the staff team who can fall down a set of stairs in their house, so I am not necessarily an immovable physical object, I can fall over air, but in myself I am immovable on so many things. Maybe today you are like me, actually you could trip up over thin air in one sense, you’re not like a rock, you’ll fall over the rock rather than be the rock, but actually inside you there is a resolute sense of “I will not be moved on this issue”.

I grew up in Church and one of the things we would sing often when I was in Sunday school, when I was four or five or maybe even six was:

The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
The foolish man built his house upon the sand
and the waves came down, the floods went whoosh

My favourite bit because we’d always raise our arms and go a bit crazy. You then got to:

The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
And the house on the rock stood firm

It stood firm. And that’s a story found in Matthew 7 and it goes on and Jesus talked about if you build your life on God’s word, you are that house built on rock. But if we build our lives on other stuff, on sand, things will shift. We know that more than ever right now. I don’t know about you but 2 and half weeks ago I was planning for my kids to go back to school, I had a plan – 2020 was an experience and I am not naturally a home-school mother – but I planned for my children to go back to school. Then a day into the school term, my youngest was at home again, that was not my plan, that was a sand shift. It felt like something moved beneath me because I had these plans, I had these things that I so wanted to do and I had to sit back and relax and have a night of going “this is just ridiculous” before I again gathered my thoughts, gathered myself and go “do you know, I’ve built my life on God and on Christ the solid rock I stand”. Because of that He knows what’s going to happen and I can carry on. God will make it all work for me right where I am. The house on the rock stood firm.

I’ve built my life on God and on Christ the solid rock I stand, He knows what’s going to happen and I can carry on. The house on the rock stood firm. Click To Tweet

I don’t know where you are today, I don’t know where you are on your journey of faith, I don’t know how long you’ve been in church, maybe you’re a “seasoned professional” like me – I was in church 9 months before I was born – I’ve been there, bought the t-shirt, got the video, the lot! I know for some of us, we come and we look at this simple scripture of building our lives on solid rock and we go “we’ve heard this before”. But what about if during the year 2020 and these past few weeks, your life was built on rock but actually you’ve just built an extension on to shifting sands. Or maybe this morning, you’ve come and your house is built on sand, it’s built on what other people say, on what other people are saying what’s going to happen. You know, it’s so easy right now to build our lives on sand, to build on what we see being said on the TV every evening, to see our work being challenged, suddenly we’re working from home and we’re not sure if we’ll have a job, maybe we’re looking financially and we’re seeing this it just isn’t going to work. It can be so easy in the moment we are in, in the day and generation that we are in, to build our lives on sands that shift. And things just seem unstable, it can be so easy to do that. We have to stop ourselves don’t we, “come on God you’re more than this, you’re bigger than this!”.

One of my favourite verses of the bible is found in Psalms and it’s this:

when my heart is overwhelmed…
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I Psalm 61:2 AMP

I don’t know this morning where you are building your life, or whether you have perhaps joined us for the first time and are thinking “building your life? I’m just doing what I want to do”, can I encourage you to build your life on the rock. The rock that does not move, be immovable on what you build your life on. Be like those trees planted by streams of living water, who flourish and prosper.

I find it amazing that in seasons where things change – like I’ve said before – for me what sticks out the most is the immovables of my life. It’s the Bible verses and the truth of the Bible that pours out of me. Some of you heard me say last week, “if I’d won a roller coaster, I’d start singing worship songs” because I grew up in an atmosphere of worship and it’s the bedrock of my life. Today I just want to challenge you on two points, and they won’t rhyme because if you know me, they just won’t! It would be a miracle if they ever did.

Choose where you will build – choose what you will build on
What are you building on? Seriously though, think right now “what am I actually building on?” Am I building what the newspapers are saying? Am I building on what my bank balance is saying? Am I building on what my school is saying? Am I building on what life is telling me? Or am I building on the Word of God? Am I building on something that never changes that is tested and tried and true? That holds fast? I love that the Word of God is so powerful in our lives. I love that I was brought up loving the Word of God and being found in huge chunks of the Bible that come out of me at times when I need them. My life was built, and is continuing to be built, on the rock that is God. Choose what you build on.

Choose what you are immovable on
We have to be immovable on the Word of God! It is true! It is tried! It is tested! We have to be immovable on the fact that we love God and we love others and we want to see them do well. We want to see during 2021 people come to know Him. Why? Because we know He is the true answer, He is the way, the truth and the life. Choose what you are immovable on.

There was a guy, one of the mighty men of 2 Samuel 23, his name is Shammah. Shammah decides that his immovable thing is a field of lentils. For you meat eaters out there, a field of lentils may not be much, but for us vegetarians that’s like “preach brother!”. Bags of lentils is what I live on, and vegetables obviously, part of my healthy diet. But a field of lentils! To Shammah, the field of lentils meant something. Can I challenge you to find things that you are immovable on that maybe other people might think “why are you arguing over a bag of lentils? why are you stood in the middle of a field of lentils with a sword?”. It says that his sword froze to his hand as he continued to fight because he knew it was worth something. Right now your field of lentils might be that you and your family are going to pray together once. Right now your field of lentils might be that you’re going to bless your neighbours. We as a group of four of us, we’ve decided to be encouragement to our neighbours in this season. We go out and do stuff, we’re always the ones first out clapping and making a noise. I chat to our neighbours and really want to be a person who actually controls the atmosphere. We can be immovable on the hope that is Jesus. In this season you can be immovable. Maybe it’s on Facebook, you could be the one that brings hope. Maybe it’s on social media, maybe it’s in your workplace, you have those “Tea and Toast” type things now and all sorts of different things. Choose what you are going to be immovable on. Make a real physical decision today, I’m going to be immovable on this thing.

We can be immovable on the hope that is Jesus. In this season you can be immovable. Click To Tweet

Those are my two points, what are you going to be immovable on? And also what are you building on this morning?

Are you building on the truth of God’s Word. If you’re not and want help, speak to a local pastor. We love to talk about the Word of God, it’s one of my favourite topics, it’s one of my favourite things to do. Give me a chance to find it and I know it’s in the Word of God, I know that I can find it in there.

In conclusion I want to say this, for a few years me and my family were really privileged to be based in Prestatyn. One of the things I would do at times when I wanted to think was to go and stand and look at the sea. I’d walk along the beach down by the Ffrith on the sand and by the sea. I’d try to stand in the sea with the tide coming in, as it’s coming in my feet are planted, but the sand underneath me is moving. I know today there are people watching and you really feel like that. You feel that in this moment you have planted your feet and you think that you have a steady grasp, you feel that you’re ok, your feet keep on moving but you want to brace, you want to be in the right place. Can I encourage you to come off the sand. Come off the sand and stand on the rock. It talks time and time and time again in the Bible about the rock. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. He is the rock. He is the one that we can build our life on. Maybe you’ve never said yes to Jesus. In a few moments there will be a little button that will come up to my left and maybe you need to click that and say yes. If it feels like sinking sand, if you feel like your feet are moving constantly, then say yes to Jesus. He is the way, He is the truth, He is the life. For whatever point of the journey, you are one, He is the one we choose to build our life on.

Come off the sand and stand on the rock. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. He is the rock. He is the one that we can build our life on. Click To Tweet

Church wherever you are right now, I pray that you are a person who builds your life on the rock and I pray that if you see people on sand you would be those who rescue. Let’s pray:

God, we thank you that you are the rock on which we stand. God, we thank you that we can stand in your work and we can be planted and found in you. God, we choose today in our homes, to be immovable, we choose to be those people of hope. Immovable in the season we are in and immovable in the fact that you are the way, the truth and the life. Jesus we love you and we honour you and we thank you for the lives that have been changed today. In your name, amen.

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Steadfast – Stand firm

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Transcript

For this month we are looking at some great verses in the book of Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 15 verses 57 and 58 we read these verses:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.1 Corinthians 15:57-58

I love these verses, they are so positive, they are so full of life. I’ve enjoyed digging into them and meditating on them over the past couple of weeks. I hope that you were able to connect in last week and perhaps think these through a little bit more too. If you weren’t here, don’t worry, pick it up today and run with us.
Last week we looked at that first bit “Thanks be to God” I thought that was a great way to start the year. We discovered that it’s one of the apostle Paul’s favourite statements – he’s the guy who wrote to the Corinthian church – he wrote this statement “Thanks be to God!”. We looked at how God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, brilliant verses, so encouraging.

This week we are going to concentrate on two words that appear in this line here

Therefore my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm1 Corinthians 15:58

I think that in this season, in 2021, there is so much uncertainty around that if ever there were a time to stand firm, it is now. Just like “Thanks be to God!” is one of Paul’s favourite statements, stand firm is another one of his favourite ones too. In fact he says this in one way or another at least once to everyone of the churches that he writes to in the New Testament, with the exception of Romans and Hebrews – but we could have a whole conversation about who they are being written to anyway. In terms of the classic epistles to churches – Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Philipians, Ephesians – this statement “Stand Firm” is found in each of those.

It is interesting to note that Paul is actually just echoing some of Jesus’ words, everyone of the first three gospels recalls Jesus at some point saying “Stand firm”. This one I especially love is in Luke’s gospel. The background to this is that Jesus is saying to his disciples that there could come a point in your future where you are going to be persecuted because of me. So He says:

Stand firm, and you will win lifeLuke 21:19

It seems to connect with what we said last week, which is why I’ve used the same picture about victory. Standing firm is key to that winning mentality because of the resurrection if you remember it affects everything that you do, so Jesus says “Stand firm and you will win life”. And just maybe Paul felt it really important in his letters to the churches, to keep saying “stand firm” because just like here there’s this threat of persecution, this sense that the world is an uncertain place, things might not go as we always expect. But in the midst of that, stand firm.

I don’t know if it’s a phrase that you use a lot, or are familiar with. In some of the older translations, the word that is often used instead of the two words Stand Firm is this word, the word “Steadfast”. In fact, I don’t know if I mentioned this last week, I remember memorising that verse in 1 Corinthians as “Be ye steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord”. There it is, “Be ye steadfast”. I love this definition I found in a dictionary:

Steadfast:
Not changing or losing purpose

It’s about our identity, who we are, what God has called us to do. When Jesus says “Stand firm”, when the apostle Paul says “Stand firm”, he’s saying don’t lose sight or change that sense of purpose that God has given you. I wonder what your purpose in God is today? Don’t lose sight of that, that’s what we mean when we say “Stand firm”, it’s all about belief in God, it’s about our faith in him. In fact, Paul, one of the things he does when he unpacks this idea of living a steadfast life, or standing firm, is he often follows it by “in”. He’ll say “stand firm in the Lord”, “stand firm in God”, “stand firm in the will of God”, “stand firm in the one spirit”, “stand firm in the faith”. It’s that sense of purpose and strength of purpose, keeping hold of it in our relationship with God.

Steadfast: It’s about our identity, who we are, what God has called us to do. When Jesus says “Stand firm” he’s saying don’t lose sight of the purpose that God has given you. Click To Tweet

The picture that conjures up in my mind is one of those classic lighthouse pictures that you often see in restaurants, well maybe not, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a picture like this in a restaurant, but you’ve probably seen these pictures, it’s kind of like this foreboding waves about to crash over this lighthouse and what does the lighthouse need to do in this moment? It needs to stand firm. In fact it comes into its own in the face of the storm. It comes into its own by being a lighthouse and standing firm. In our world today, I think our world is going through a huge storm, it needs you and me to stand firm in our faith, to stand firm in our walk with God, the way that we shine for Him in the midst of the storm. Let’s do our best to live steadfast lives.

That’s a bit of background really to what this is about, what Paul is trying to say to us but how can we live steadfast lives, how can we stand firm. I’ve already hinted at the way that Paul talks about “Stand firm in the faith” “stand firm in God”, there’s the classic verses in Ephesians that then go on to talk about the full armour of God. I want to take it somewhere different perhaps, to capture our attention in a new way. I’d like us to head over to the Psalms, the Old Testament. There’s these wonderful verses here in Psalm 20 which again talk about standing firm. This is David who’s written this Psalm and I’m assuming it’s David talking:

Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed;
He answers him from His holy heaven
with the saving power of His right hand.
Some trust in chariots and others in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.Psalm 20:6-8

You might be familiar with these verses, I think there are another set of verses that I remember being in a song, the chariots and horses bit. What really captured my imagination here was this last phrase, you can see the stand firm bit here: “But we rise up and stand firm”. The first thing that struck me there was I’ve always thought of steadfast and stand firm as stopping and just standing still. I guess that there is some truth in that, it’s part of the definition, but I like the moment here, while others are losing their trust in God, when things around us are falling down, we actually rise up, there’s movement. We rise up and stand firm. We can rise up in this season and be affirmed in the purpose that God has for our lives. Wherever you are, whatever you are going through, you can rise up in the circumstances that you are facing. You can rise up above it and stand firm in all that God has got for you.

While others are losing their trust in God, when things around us are falling down, there’s movement - we rise up and stand firm. Click To Tweet

It’s a great Psalm, I would encourage you to read the whole of Psalm at some point. It’s quite an unusual one because the first half of the Psalm is full of blessings but it’s interesting that it uses the word “we”. It says “may we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banner in the name of our God”. It’s not at this point just one person, it’s a corporate, we’re all together here, let us all shout for joy, let’s all rejoice in each other’s victories. Lift up our banners in the name of our God, it’s like we’re all here praising God together. In Psalm 20 it is almost like they are praising God for their king, they are proclaiming blessings over the king which is why we get to this point where it switches from “we” and “our”, the king responds with “I” and “me”, he’s responding to those proclamations of blessing from the people. So even though I landed on this bit here, the “we rise up and stand firm”, the question is how can we live steadfast lives? How can we stand firm? It struck me that there are a couple of other questions I found myself asking within these verses which helped me answer that bigger question. So now I know that the Lord saves, Some trust in chariots and others in horses,but we rise up and stand firm.
Here’s a few questions I want to challenge you with and want you to ask yourself these questions and as we unpack them, the way that we answer them helps us ascertain and understand what it means to live a steadfast life.

Who do I know?

In those verses we read this Psalmist saying “now I know”, it has this resounding sense of assurance, “now I know that the Lord”. The psalmist is saying that he is really sure and certain that in knowing God. My question to you is, do you know God? It’s the question that I’ve been asking myself recently, how much do I know God? Who do I know? My prayer for you, for myself, my family and for my friends is that we would grow in our knowledge of God, that was our theme towards the end of last year. We based this again on some of Paul’s writing to the Ephesian church. Ephesians chapter 1 verse 17 says:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.Ephesians 1:17

I want to know God with all of my heart. In fact I would go as far as to say that the whole purpose of life is to grow in relationship with God.

If you weren’t here last week, you might be wondering why on earth I have this picture of kerplunk. It’s because I thought it was a great example of how Jesus holds everything together. If you know the game, you have to pull out these plastic straws to try not to let the marbles fall down. It struck me how often in the game, you pull out one, everything seems to be resting on one of these plastic straws, everything about the game comes down to that one straw, everything is held together by that one straw. In Colosians Chapter 1 it says:

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.Colossians 1:17

Who do I know? I want to know Jesus. Who should we know? That’s Jesus. And Jesus shows us something of who God is. If you have never taken steps towards him, I would encourage you to do that today. If you are well on your way to taking steps in his direction, go for it! Keep finding out as much as you can about Him, keep developing your friendship with God. It is key to standing firm.

Who do I know? I want to know Jesus. Who should we know? That’s Jesus. And Jesus shows us something of who God is. Click To Tweet

Who will save me?

The thing that he seems to know in the Psalms is that “now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He answers him from His holy heaven with the saving power of His right hand.” I think standing firm, to live a steadfast life, we must have settled who our saviour is. I think we all need a saviour, we all need to be able to answer that question “Who is going to save you?” “who is going to save me?”. That’s not just a nice way to talk about doing well in life, who is going to save me from my problems? Who is going to save me from myself? They’re good things to work through but there is an ultimate question though in terms of eternity, who is going to save your soul? Who is going to rescue you and make sure that you get to live forever with God? Who will save you? Who will save me?

This dog in the middle here is Daisy. This is a story I saw in the news last summer. The funny thing about it is that Daisy is a St Bernard dog, a mountain dog, and basically Daisy got really tired in the Lake District and had to be rescued. All these mountain rescue people carried Daisy off on a stretcher. Daisy had found her saviours that day. It’s a great story.

Who will save me? Jesus is our saviour. Make him your saviour today.

Who do I trust?

The verses go on with this horse and chariot analogy, it says:

Some trust in chariots and others in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.Psalm 20:6-8

Most of us don’t trust in horses and chariots these days but we often find ourselves trusting in things that perhaps we should be trusting God for. I think you can rely on God, He’s the source of life, He’s trustworthy, you can bring all your worries to Him, all your hopes to Him like we saw over Christmas “Our hopes and fears of all the years are met in Him tonight”. Do you trust Him? I would encourage you to find new ways to trust Him, evaluate your sense of trust in God.

I think you can rely on God, He’s the source of life, He’s trustworthy, you can bring all your worries to Him, all your hopes to Him. Click To Tweet

In my picture here we’ve got the one and only Luke Gratto, adventurer, mountaineer extraordinaire. This is taken in 2017 where Luke and I were doing some climbing in Snowdonia, this is on Tryfan on a section of route called the Yellow Slab, it is quite hard work. The thing about climbing is that you always have to climb with someone unless you’re a nutter, and there are some nutter climbers around, because it’s about safety and trusting one another. As you can see, there are two ropes on the go here because another friend of ours, Paul, was with us. It could be that I’m at the top of this purple rope and Paul is at the bottom of this orange rope. We have to trust each other, we have to know, we have to really trust the person you are climbing with. I’m trying to work out the expression on Luke’s face, I think it’s one of trust but it could be one of apprehension. Trust for me just captures this idea of being connected to God and when you feel like you’re going to fall you can hold on. When you feel that things around you are insecure or moving in this constant change around, you can trust in the faithfulness of God and you can trust in God. You can hold on to Him, He’s got you tied to Him, He’s got you covered, He’s there all the time.

Who do I trust? I trust in God.

Let’s look at these verses again, the psalmist says:

Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed;
He answers him from His holy heaven
with the saving power of His right hand.
Some trust in chariots and others in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.Psalm 20:6-8

Here’s our verses from Corinthians:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.1 Corinthians 15:57-58

You’ve seen lots of pictures on the screens today, this is definitely my favourite one, it’s the one of the lighthouse. It’s secure in its purpose. To be steadfast to mean not to change the purpose that God has for us, let’s stand firm together today as a church, as families, as individuals, I want to encourage you to work through those questions again: Do you know God? Is Jesus your saviour? How much do you trust in Him? Let’s stand firm, let’s rise up and stand firm.

That’s me done from God’s word today, it’s been great to share with you and I look forward to seeing you again soon. God bless.

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Steadfast – Thanks be to God!

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Transcript

Today is our first Sunday together of 2021, I hope that you have had a good Christmas, I’m sure that some things were different, I’m hoping that you were able to make the most of the opportunities that you had to be with friends and family. And if you weren’t able to do that, well I hope you get to see those dear to you again fairly soon.

As we are coming into this new year, I’ve got a great couple of verses to share with you. This month of January we’re going to be basing our preaching theme on a couple of verses from the book of 1 Corinthians. This is the apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. In these two verses here in 1 Corinthians 15, they really caught my attention towards the end of last year. Have a listen to them:

57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15 57-58 NIV

What an amazing two verses, they’re so encouraging. Wouldn’t it be good if this year, we could build our lives on these verses. It’s actually a great chapter that I would encourage you to have a good read of. It’s a long chapter and it’s titled “The Resurrection of Christ”. This is Paul the apostle really making his case for why the resurrection, why Jesus rising from the dead, was and is so important. He starts of the chapter by saying:

1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures 1 Corinthians 15 1-4 NIV

And it goes on, Paul unpacking the importance of the resurrection in our lives. It is in these final two verses that he brings it all together. He’s saying that because of the resurrection, it’s like he’s quoting a song:

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! 1 Corinthians 15 55-57 NIV

I would love it if you could dig deep into these verses this January, maybe this year. What are they saying to you? What difference can these verses make in your life?

Today though, we’re going to concentrate on verse 57, just this verse:

57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15 57 NIV

What a great way to start the year by confessing this, speaking this out, making this the theme of our lives. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. For the preachers amongst us today, wherever you are tuning in from, you might have already spotted that this verse divides itself quite nicely into three points. For our remaining time together in this preachy bit these are three things that I want to highlight.

But thanks be to God!
Isn’t it great, such a great statement. It’s one of the apostle Paul’s favourite statements. He doesn’t just say “Thank you God”, or “Thanks Lord”. It’s bigger, more emphatic, “Thanks be to God!”. I’ve used this little picture of a thumbs up, we’re quite used to liking things aren’t we in today’s social media age. But Paul’s doing more than just giving God a thumbs up, he’s more than just saying “the resurrection is great, that must mean something, Thanks God, well done”. I think that in this verse, and in this statement, the power of acknowledgement going on. Acknowledging one another is so important in terms of affirming each other, giving value to one another. It says something about me when I acknowledge you, it’s speaking about my relationship with you, my connection with you, it’s affirming that in my life. I think that acknowledging one another is so important in staying connected. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a party or maybe just even Church or some other type of gathering? You might not get to speak to all the people you wanted to, but you’ve managed to give a quick thumbs up from across the room, or a quick nod, that moment of acknowledgement is so important in terms of developing good friendships and relationships. I noticed when I was preparing this that the word “knowledge” is hidden inside the word “acknowledgement”. When Paul says “Thanks be to God”, it’s more than just a thumbs up, he’s acknowledging something. I think that he’s acknowledging that all of his source of energy and light comes from God. It’s that acknowledgement that I’m only here today because of God in my life. It grounds me, it keeps my direction set in the right direction. It’s a good reminder, a humility bringer, gratitude and humility working together in this statement where we’re acknowledging that all that we have, all that we are, all of life is because of God.

I would encourage you today to find new ways of acknowledging God, referencing Him, making Him your point of reference, your grounding, your anchor and foundation, the whiteboard on which you write all the stories and plans that you’ve got for this year. Making the One the source of everything.

When I was thinking about acknowledging God, I was reminded of an old song. I found the verses that it comes from, maybe you’ll recognise it when I read it to you. It’s in Psalm 124:

1 If the Lord had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
2 if the Lordhad not been on our side
when people attacked us,
3 they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us; Psalms 124 1-3 NIV

I think it’s again emphatic. It actually says it twice “If the Lord had not been on our side”, it’s a big WOW. “If the Lord had not been on our side” all our enemies “would have swallowed us alive”. At the end of the Psalm, David acknowledges that:

8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalms 124 8 NIV

It’s like David had learned to live a life that acknowledged God. Often it starts with just thanking him, giving him praise, and this is how Paul concludes these important verses, in this important chapter: “Thanks be to God”. If you’ve got time, search out that phrase, I think Paul uses it 6 or 7 times.

He gives us the victory
I guess that in the context of Paul’s writing here, it’s talking about the effect of the resurrection. That because Jesus rose from the dead, we can access eternal life, we can live forever with God, death won’t hold us down, sin doesn’t have to be the authority in our lives anymore, we can win over all those things. That is so important. Here’s what struck me about this, wouldn’t it be great if we could always live with that sense of victory permeating through everything that we do, our thinking, our decision making, our conversations? I think in some circles, certainly sporting circles, I’ve come across the phrase about needing to have a winning mentality. I quite like that, some of you might be cringing already, I love this idea of a winning mentality, a winning outlook on life. And why not? If death has been beaten, if sin no longer has a hold on us, Thanks be to God He gives us the victory. I think that that sense of victory, the reality of that victory, should surely permeate every part of our lives.

I don’t know if you ever have hung around people who seem to win a lot? Or maybe you’ve played a game and won? Or maybe you’ve been part of something where you came out on top? Did you notice how that made you feel for at least a short time afterwards? For me I’ve only got to win at Connect 4 and my day is set up. The opposite could be true too. I was definitely one of those little kids that used to cry everytime I lost at something. It’s interesting isn’t it that Liverpool supporters are still riding high on winning the league last season. Winning makes a difference. It buoys us, it lifts us up. You know what it feels like when you’re not winning. So I do think that because of the victory of cross, of the death and resurrection of Jesus, that actually we can carry that into every part of our lives, into our outlook, into our way that we think, the way that we treat others, the way we encourage one another. It is because in God we win. We are overcomers, we are victorious. In Romans 8 it kind of implies this, that it should be making a difference all the time, this sense of victory in Christ. It says:

If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31 NIV

It goes on to say:

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8 38-39 NIV

And though I keep saying this, the context is definitely about the resurrection, I have this sense that because of that we can carry the hallmark of that into everyday life. Today, because of Jesus, because of His resurrection, you are victorious. What would it be like if every part of life was somehow hinting at that victory? I think it would make us stand up a bit straighter, maybe make our smiles a bit bigger, we would be quicker to encourage one another.

Today, because of Jesus, because of His resurrection, you are victorious. What would it be like if every part of life was somehow hinting at that victory? Click To Tweet

Through our Lord Jesus Christ
Everything comes back to Jesus! Our Christian faith, this last year that we have experienced, which was very difficult, the year ahead of us which is going to have its challenges too, we’re going to do well if we make sure we keep on bringing everything back to our Lord Jesus Christ. We’ve just celebrated His birth at Christmas. Why can’t everyday be a celebration of who He is, He is God, He is the Lord, He is the Christ, He’s our saviour, He is the One that makes the biggest difference in our lives. He really is the answer to all the world’s needs and problems, I believe that with all of my heart. I do like the way that Paul grounds it in the person of Jesus Christ. Today if you don’t know Him, I would love it if you were able to say yes to Jesus so perhaps just find some time and space at the beginning of this year to ask Jesus to show himself to you in a new way. It’s all because of Him that we can learn to acknowledge God in every aspect of our lives. It’s because of Him that we have the victory. I think it is this relationship with Him that is going to be the key to how well we approach and work our way through 2021.

We’ve just celebrated His birth at Christmas. Why can’t everyday be a celebration of who He is, He is God, He is the Lord, He is the Christ, He’s our saviour, He is the One that makes the biggest difference in our lives. Click To Tweet

You might be wondering I’ve gone with a picture of the classic children’s game, actually it’s an adult’s game as well, the classic game Kerplunk! Who remembers playing Kerplunk when they were little? I certainly do. Just before Christmas this year, I found myself on eBay ordering myself some games that I used to play as a kid, one of them was Kerplunk. I quite enjoyed that, I enjoyed winning not so much losing. Here’s the the verse I want us to think about when it comes to Jesus, Colossians 1:15

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Colossians 1 15-17 NIV

I think that’s profound, in Jesus all things are held together. We find our bearing in Jesus, we find that sense of security, we’re anchored in Him, He’s our compass. It says in Colossians “In him all things hold together” I couldn’t help but wonder if the opposite was true. Without him I wonder if all things actually slowly fall apart. He’s the One that restores and mends and shapes us, and in those moments where we feel like we’re falling apart, He brings us together.

So why Kerplunk? Well in my mad imagination, I’m always intrigued by how everything in this game, if you don’t know the game by the way, all the marbles are placed in this tube and you take it in turns to pull out these plastic straws and the idea at the end of the game is to not have any marbles. But you know what it’s like, you pull one and all of the marbles start falling. I’m always surprised by, perhaps intrigued by, everything is generally held together by just one plastic straw. You pull out that one plastic straw, and it’s the one that everything was balancing on and it all falls apart. When you pull that out, that one straw. Our life is a bit like that without Jesus. He is the one that holds it all together, He holds us together and when He’s not in His rightful place, it’s like losing at Kerplunk. You have to have Him front and center holding you together. And today if you do feel like things aren’t held together, my prayer for you is that you find that wholeness again in who Jesus is. In our service today there have been plenty of opportunities to pray, to come before Him, and there will also be an opportunity to connect with some of us, if you want to say yes to Jesus and want to let someone know about it, there will be an opportunity in the chat to let us know that you want to find out more about Him today.

So, that’s it everyone, our two verses at the start of 2021, let’s start with praise, let’s acknowledge God today and throughout the year because He gives us the victory, it is because of Him that we have overcome, it is because of Him that we can walk with a spring in our step and why? Because of, and through our Lord Jesus, the One that holds everything together.

It has been so good to share with you today and again have a great week. Settle into 2021 well, keep bringing it to Jesus. My prayer is that this year that you would grow in your knowledge of God. God bless, looking forward to seeing you soon, thanks so much for being with us today.

Let’s acknowledge God today because He gives us the victory, it is because of Him that we have overcome, it is because of Him that we can walk with a spring in our step and why? Because of, and through our Lord Jesus, the One that… Click To Tweet
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