Steadfast – Thanks be to God!
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.
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