“Doing Even More”Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons
There are many things that I love about being a preacher, but one of my favorites is the encouragement I get from good people who are diligently seeking God. For me these days, it seems like every Sunday night is a Paul-in-1-Thessalonians 3 moment. Since the big pandemic shutdown late last year, it’s been a joy to watch our evening attendance slowly rebuild itself.
The progress hasn’t been linear, but on the attendance charts, it’s plain to see. More and more, the members here, people who had gotten out of the habit of worshiping on Sunday nights, are investing the effort to re-instill that habit. I think that’s great, and it speaks volumes about who all the people who are here tonight want to be.
To the Sunday evening crowd, then, I can only repeat Paul’s commendation in 1 Thessalonians 4:1. All you can say to the folks who are already working is encouraging them to do better! Though obviously there are any number of ways that all of us can improve in our service to God, there are three that I want to focus on this evening, ways that every brother and sister here can do even more.
The first of these is to MAKE THE MOST OF THE TIME. Consider Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:15-16. I think his reasoning here is fascinating. He says some familiar things: pay attention, and make the most of your time. However, his reasoning is not very familiar at all. We should do these things because the days are evil. In other words, we should take advantage of the opportunities we have right now because life is hard, the future is uncertain, and we may never get opportunities like this again.
If there is any lesson that we should have learned from the pandemic, surely this is it! On January 1, 2020, none of us anticipated the way that the next 18 months were going to go. We had no idea how greatly our lives were going to change. For many of us, we had no idea that an illness from the other side of the globe was going to put those lives in danger.
On January 1, 2020, all of us were rotten future-predictors. On June 6th, 2021, are any of us any better future-predictors? We have no idea what the future holds! For all we know, on January 1, 2023, we might not even be here anymore!
This tells us, then, that the time for serving God in all those ways we’ve been thinking about is not 18 months from now, or at some indefinite point in the future. That time is now.
This could mean any number of things for us. It could mean that we follow through on that good intention of being here every time the doors are open. It could mean that we commit to spending more time on our kids and grandkids instead of work and hobbies. It could mean that if we fell off the daily-Bible-reading wagon in February, we get back on it in June. I don’t know what the answer is for all of you, but I think each of you knows what it is for yourself.
The future is uncertain. We might not be able to act then, but all of us can act now. Every day that God gives us is a priceless opportunity. Let’s use each of them to glorify Him.
Second, let’s recognize the opportunity we have right now to LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR. Jesus emphasizes the importance of love in Matthew 22:34-40. This is a familiar passage to most of us, but I think there is a particular application that we need to consider. Remember how back during the pandemic, we would check the CDC site every day to get the latest COVID numbers? Right now, there’s a public-health crisis going on that may be even worse, but nobody is updating a website daily about it. It’s a mental-health crisis.
Human beings are social creatures. God designed us to enjoy and even need being around others. This is why in prison, the worst thing that you can do to punish somebody who has been locked away for life is to put him in solitary confinement. Well, brethren, for the past 18 months, COVID plus government intervention has put us all in solitary confinement, and the mental damage that has done is incalculable.
Worse still, the disease prevents the cure. If you’ve got COVID bad, you’re going to go to the hospital, but if you’re badly depressed, you’re not going to want to go anywhere or do anything to get better. None of us have the foggiest idea how many Americans are in this predicament, but I would guess that they number in the tens of millions. Each one of those people is a silent tragedy.
If they can’t reach out to us, we need to reach out to them. We need to be checking up on the people we know, both inside and outside the church, and engaging deeply enough with them to make sure that they’re OK. This is particularly true for those whose behavior has changed significantly pre-pandemic to post-pandemic. There may well be a problem there, and we need to love our neighbor enough to find the truth and act to help if needed.
Finally, let’s PRAY FOR DOORS. Paul advises the Colossians to do so in Colossians 4:2-4. It’s axiomatic that people start seeking the Lord in hard times. We see this pattern occur repeatedly in the book of Judges, among many other places in Scripture. We have undeniably been through a hard time, so what does that tell us that a lot of people have been thinking about?
Once again, though, these people aren’t necessarily going to be boldly coming to us. If you don’t have God in your life, and COVID has got you thinking about the frailty and insecurity of human existence, that’s a pretty depressing line of thought! Right now, the people who most see their need for God and would be most willing to accept Him may well also be those who are least able to do anything about it. They’re really unlikely to show up on their own at a church building full of people they don’t know.
What do we do about it? We pray about it, that’s what! We ask that God through His providence will lead us to encounter people who will be receptive to the gospel. Of course, if we are loving our neighbor as we should and checking up on people, we show God that we will walk through the door if He opens it, and we make it more likely that opportunities will arise.
When that door opens, you don’t have to be Jesus or the apostle Paul to take advantage, either. I’m here to tell you: converting somebody who isn’t ready for the gospel is impossible, but converting somebody who is, is easy. Even if you’re not up for even a basic study, you’re up for inviting somebody to services. Just do that, and keep praying, and good things will happen.