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. Going the extra mile for the Lord

GOING THE EXTRA MILE FOR THE LORD

1 Corinthians 15:58 (ESV) 58Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Introduction.

In my last sermon on Hebrews 11-12 we were looking at the Christian in relation to a race. And the only way we would be victorious in the race was to firstly look back at the witnesses that have run before us and who would together with us be glorified, as they remind us that it can be done. Then we saw that we have to look up at Jesus who is the author and the finisher of our faith, and lastly we saw that to complete the race we had to look forward to the joy that is before us. Today I want to keep with that concept and talk about something more practical and that is Christians going the extra mile.

We are nearly at the end of 2012 which is our first year in the life of Logos Community Church. Now we can all be inclined to look back at some of the trials we were facing or we could become New Year’s resolutionists (to coin a new word) that put all our hope in the year ahead or we can join Paul in his attitude reflected in the text before us.  I remember when I was at Seminary one of my lecturers always asked us the following question: “where do you come from, where are you now and where are you going?” This has always been a very helpful question for me, as it helps you to establish some perspective in life.

I do however believe that Paul will tell us that the most important part of the question is “where are you now?”, because where you are now will in a great way be determined by your understanding of where you have come from and it will greatly determine where you are going. Paul uses a critical word in verse 58, and that is the little word: “always”. Paul says: “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” So for Paul the issue is not so much the past, it is not so much the future, it is staying in the position where you are at and without end, continuously, uninterruptedly, giving yourself fully to the Lord.

This obviously will beg the question, ‘where am I as far as my labour in the Lord is concerned?’ Now remember that Paul is not writing these words to us void of context. He has just spent a whole chapter on the matter of the resurrection which we looked at on Easter Sunday morning.

He has told us in verse 14 that because Christ is raised from the dead preaching has a glorious eternal purpose, because if Christ was not raised preaching would be in vain. He also told us in verse 14 that because Christ is raised from the dead our faith is secure, because if Christ was not raised our faith would be in vain. In verse 15 we saw that because Christ is raised from the dead we are true representatives of Jesus Christ. If Christ was not raised we would be misrepresenting God.  He told us in verse 16-17 that because Christ is raised from the dead our sins are forgiven. If Christ was not raised we would still be in our sins. He has also just told us in verse 18 that because Christ is raised from the dead we graduate to glory when we die. If Christ was not raised there is no resurrection of the dead. We saw in verse 19 that because Christ is raised from the dead we are of all people most to be envied. If Christ is not raised we are of all people most to be pitied. The joy for every believer is that verse 20 tells us that “Christ is risen indeed”.

So if you want to ask me where we all find ourselves as believers, I want to state emphatically that the position you find yourself in today and always is the completed work of Christ not just on the cross but  also through the open grave. You are in a position where we associate with Paul who says in verse 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (ESV) 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” So as a believer, you are in a position of high victory because death is defeated and it is from this position that Paul says to us today, 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” So it is with gratitude to the resurrection power of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we can look at verse 58 and embrace it’s truth not just for the year 2012 or 2013, but now and forever.

Paul starts verse 58 with the word ‘therefore’. Now as I have said before – when we see the word ‘therefore’ we must always ask what ‘therefore’ is there for. ‘Therefore’ serves as a connector between two sentences clearly stating that what follows now is a logical conclusion to the argument just given. I have overslept, therefore I am late for work, I watched TV too late last night, therefore I sleep in church,  I have eaten too much over Christmas, therefore I have put on weight, Christ is risen, we are in Christ, therefore stand firm, let nothing move you etc. etc.

Let me break this text into logical segments for a few moments and I trust that the Lord will use it in our lives today and into the future. Paul has three things to say to us namely:

Firstly: Be steadfast.

Some translations actually say: “stand firm”.  Let me just point out that Paul is talking to us as fellow believers, which is why he can say ‘my beloved brothers’. Now we know that the statement ‘brothers’ in context means all of us, not just the men.

So Paul is not telling us how to come to Christ, he is speaking to those who are in Christ. Paul is discussing a lifelong process of living in Christ, a ‘now and forever process.’ I prefer the translation ‘be steadfast’ as it is in our text instead of ‘stand firm’ as the Greek word  (hedraios) actually means to be seated. The word chair by the way comes from the Greek word ‘kathedra” where the word Cathedral also comes from which is used with reference to the building where the bishop has his throne.

So what Paul is saying to us is this. Do not move away from the seat of the security you have in the completed work of Christ through His resurrection. Be steadfast, hold fast to it, stand firm, sit tight, keep your seat,  don’t move, Jesus is risen and our hope, our faith and our labour is secure in nothing else than where we are seated. That is why the Hebrew writer can say in Hebrews 10:23 (ESV) “23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” We should all learn from this that we are to be firmly fixed on Christ and on his doctrine.

Logos family, we must not grow tired or weary in our service to Him, but we should live a balanced life of service which remains fixed on Him from the day of our regeneration forward. Why? Because through Him we have overcome the final obstacle which is death, so that we in this life live for Him who has accomplished it for us. You must live now for eternity.

Secondly: Be immovable.

Paul continues and says, ‘be immovable’ or ‘let nothing move you’. At first glance, we would be tempted to think that "being steadfast" and being "immovable" mean exactly the same thing, but there are some key differences between the two.

‘Being steadfast,’ or ‘sitting tight’, emphasizes the aspect of steadiness, while ‘being immovable’ emphasizes the aspect of faith that will not be shaken even in the worst of circumstances. In Acts 27:41, the same Greek word is used to describe the condition of the boat Paul was on after it struck the reef and ran aground. It was immovable because no matter what they did, it wouldn't budge.

This same word should be able to be used in reference to the character and faith of any individual Christian today. Paul says of the Galatians in Galatians 1:6 (ESV)6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—“ Paul's amazement for these Galatian believers should come as no surprise, for his command is that Christians be immovable, yet these Christians in Galatia were not only movable, but surprisingly easy to move. Is this true of us today? If it is, we should work on living out the command of being immovable.

Why? Because through Jesus Christ we have victory over death and are always “always abounding in the work of the Lord,”, because Christ is risen and because He is head of His church. This leads us to our last point.

Thirdly: Always abounding in the work of the Lord,

The NIV says: “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.”

After exhorting the Corinthians to remain fixed and steady in Christ, Paul then exhorts them further to go out and do the work of the Lord in an abundant way. ‘Always abounding’ with ‘abounding’ being the root word is translated from (perisseuo). The word (perisseuo) is such a rich word. It means to ‘exceed’, or ‘to do over and above’, or ‘to do exceedingly’ or to ‘excel’, or my version ‘going the extra mile for God’.

It carries with it the idea of going beyond that which is ordinary, a surpassing quality or quantity, depending on context. Here, not only are the Corinthians (and us) exhorted to go beyond ordinary standards in working for Christ, but ALWAYS to go beyond that standard. There are too many believers who simply do what is expected and too few who go beyond.

Going beyond should not be something that happens now and then, it should happen daily. Also we are not called to number or measure the work we do for God, we just abound in it, and always! Why is it that Christians will so easily apply the best standard in the world, and for the world, but not for Christ? When it comes to the world, only the best is the best, but when it comes to Christ the standards have to be dropped. The world expects quality, the world expects punctuality, the world expects hard work and endurance, and the world expects excellence – WHY CAN CHRIST NOT GET THE SAME? I believe that when it comes to the things of God, the standards should actually be raised. If I can do neat work for the world, I must do perfect work for Christ, if I am on time for the world, I am 10 minutes early for Christ, if I work long hours for the world, I work longer for the Lord, if I excel for the world, I super-excel for the Lord.

We have something to prove fellow Christian. James says in James 1:22 and I am reading from the NASB: 22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.Let’s prove ourselves church family, abundantly and always, to be workers of the Lord. This is our commandment and our goal in life. You have to know what the work of the Lord is to do it, and you find out what it is in the Word of God. Yet, it is not simply enough to know. We have to know, and then do -- abundantly and always. Why? Because through Jesus Christ we can have victory over death, and we know “that our labour in the Lord is not in vain.”

One thing we know when we work for God is that we are working for the best purpose we could ever find. It's a spiritual purpose, it's an eternal purpose, and it's a godly purpose. I can't help but be reminded of the following verse which shows Paul’s attitude towards the work of the Lord. 2 Timothy 1:12 (ESV) 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.”

Work for God will never be forgotten and the reward can never be equalled on earth. What is that reward? Eternal life. Why should we work for the Lord again? Because through Jesus Christ we can have victory over death. 1 Corinthians 15:58 should instruct each of us concerning our lives and give us a God-given measuring stick by which we can examine ourselves to see how we are doing in the faith.

Can I ask you three simple questions in closing?

  1. Where have you come from? – Lost, damned, dead in sin, condemned – right?
  2. Where are you now? – A resurrection person, in Christ, living in high victory, seated in Christ, sitting tight, firmly established – right?
  3. Where are you going? Can I challenge you to become an ‘as now, always person’. And if now your standards are not where it should be, I trust that you will raise the bar from this day forward into 2013 and beyond.

Work harder for Christ, work smarter for Christ, work better for Christ, be more punctual for Christ, give more for the work of Christ, abound, abound, abound. And know this, ‘that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.’

Amen!

Logos Community Church: 9 December 2012