“What to Do, Now and Always”

Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons

If there is any phrase that has become a cliché in 2020, it is saying that we live in unprecedented times.  Actually, we don’t.  In the bosom of the mightiest nation ever to exist, maybe we’ve been enjoying peace and security for decades, but that’s not how things have gone for most people ever, and it’s certainly not how things went in the first century.

Back then, before people figured out germ theory, epidemics were so common that they weren’t really worth talking about.  We’re all aflutter about civil unrest in the US, but Christians 2000 years ago had to deal with the Great Jewish Revolt and Roman civil wars.  In short, the things that we think are big problems they probably would not have noticed!

However, the striking thing about God’s message to His people in turbulent times is that it did not change.  Jesus’ call to discipleship remained the same for them, and it remains the same for us.  We still have our marching orders.  As part of our continuing study of living for Jesus, then, let’s see what we should do, both now and always.

The first thing that we must remember is to CONTINUE IN LOVE.  Here, look at 1 Peter 4:8.  This isn’t a very long verse, but it reveals the chasm between the world’s definition of love and God’s definition of love.  In the world, love is something that happens to you.  You fall in love; you fall out of love.  In this passage, though, we see that love is something we maintain.  It’s something we keep constant.  To put things another way, to the flesh, love is an emotion.  To God, love is a commitment.

This passage tells us, then, that it’s not enough for us to love one another.  Instead, God expects us to keep on loving one another.  He expects us to be committed to one another.  This is true not only when love is easy and we want to.  It’s true when love is hard and we don’t want to.

Maybe this is true in our marriages.  Maybe we’re going through a rough patch that has been so long we’ve forgotten what a smooth patch is like, and we’re tired, and we want to quit.  Maybe it’s true in our families, when we’re struggling so hard to see eye to eye with them on some issues that we start wondering what we have in common with them at all.  Maybe it’s in our congregation, because somebody else has been thoughtless or we’ve been thoughtless and this whole big problem has brewed up out of nowhere.

It doesn’t really matter what the situation is.  The Holy Spirit’s words are the same.  Maintain that love.  Keep the relationship going.  Stay committed. 

Indeed, if we have that love, Peter says, it will cover a multitude of sins.  Love will help us to overlook and forgive things that we never would otherwise.  Love reveals to us that even the people who drive us crazy are precious in the sight of God.  Finally, when we are merciful to others, we ensure that He will be merciful to us.  Love does cover a multitude of sins, and some of the sins it covers are ours!

Second, we must CONTINUE TO PRAY.  Here, let’s look at Luke 18:1-7.  I admit, I could have read just v. 1 and made my point, but I wanted to read the whole parable because I think it’s amazing.  Here’s what God is saying to us.  He’s telling us that in our prayers to him, he wants us to be like this stubborn widow lady who harasses a wicked judge into giving her justice, even though he had no concern for her or justice or anything.  She wore him down with sheer persistence!  God says, “Pray like that!”

I think that usually, we see two possible answers to our prayers:  “Yes,” and “No,” right?  The point of this parable, though, is that there really are three:  “Yes,” “No,” and “How bad do you want it?”  God does not tempt us to do evil, but there are times when He does test our faith, and prayer is one of those times.  Yes, He could give us what we ask for right when we ask for it, but sometimes He delays His answer just to see what we do with the delay.  Will our trust in Him remain strong, so that we continue to pray?  Or, instead, does our weak faith give in and give up?

If we want to see the fullness of God’s blessing, we need to remain steadfast in prayer.  We need to keep praying for our country, even when it seems to be getting worse instead of better.  We need to keep praying for our loved ones who are not obedient to the word.  Sometimes, it takes decades for those prayers to be answered!  We need to keep praying for the church despite an uncertain future. 

Above all, we must remember that we are praying not to an unrighteous judge, but to a merciful God.  If even the judge in the parable gave in eventually, how much more will our heavenly Father hear the cries of His children!

Finally, we must CONTINUE TO WORK.  Consider Galatians 6:9-10.  Much like we can get discouraged in loving others and get discouraged in praying, we can get discouraged in our work for the Lord too.  Sadly, it’s all too common for preachers to burn out, but I know this is a struggle for the brethren in the pews too.  So many of you do so much, both for this congregation and in the rest of your lives, that’s out of sight.  You put all this time and effort in, and the world seems to flow on unchanged.

If that’s how you’re feeling, I have some things I want you to think about.  First, your contributions aren’t going as unnoticed and appreciated as you think.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been talking with one of the elders, and they’ll mention that So-and-So is doing this.  They know what you’re doing, and God certainly knows what you’re doing!

Second, we need to remember that it’s a lot easier to tear down than it is to build.  With one bad decision, any of us can ruin our lives, but to accomplish anything for good often takes years of patient effort.  When you’re working for the Lord, things usually aren’t going to happen very fast.  However, the more effort we put in, the better the results will be.

Let me say to all of you, then:  don’t grow weary and lose heart!  All of you who are working in our classes, working on VBS, working in the AV room or the security team, working on the building, and a host of other things besides—your work matters, and it will matter. 

Most of all, though, if you’re trying to shine the light of Christ to the lost, don’t give up on that!  There are dozens of Christians here this morning who had a spouse, or a friend, or a co-worker who didn’t give up on them, who patiently taught and encouraged them until they obeyed the gospel.  We can be that spouse.  We can be that co-worker.  We can be that friend.  I know as well as anybody how discouraging personal work can be, but we have God’s promise:  if we don’t grow weary, somewhere, with somebody, we will reap.