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

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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!

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