logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!


Daring Faith: Key To Miracles - Part 3

1Cor.9:22-27 - March 19, 2017

(adapted with permission from Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, April 18-19, 2015)

      [REVIEW MEMORY VERSE: “According to your faith will it be done to you.” Matthew 9:29] It’s been said, the greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a wasted life. As your pastor I am committed to helping you be all God wants you to be. I don’t want you to settle for second place. I want you to win the race that God has given to you. I want you to be the best that you can be. So let’s look at these three analogies in the Bible – a soldier, and an athlete and a farmer.

      Jimmy Carter, former US President, recalled being interviewed by Admiral Rickover for the privilege of serving on a nuclear submarine. The admiral let Carter try to sell himself for a couple of hours then asked a very poignant question: “When you were in school and in all your previous life up to this date, did you always do your best?” Carter started to answer affirmatively then realized that wouldn’t be honest. He replied, “No, I didn’t do my best all the time.” The admiral looked at him with piercing eyes and asked, “Why not?” When Carter wrote his 1976 autobiography he titled it, “Why Not the Best?” That question haunted him: “Am I truly giving my best?”

      If you want to give your best to God, there are three things you must do that every soldier understands.

      1. I must define what I’d die for. Until you know what you’re willing to die for you’re not ready to live. And you’re not ready to love until you know who you’d die for. If you’ve never clarified what’s worth dying for, you really are not fully alive.

      Soldiers know there are some things worth dying for: Freedom, family, faith – these are all worth dying for. There are some things more valuable even than my own life and anyone in the Canadian Forces understands that. When I was sworn in as a chaplain in the Reserves, I understood that was an ‘unlimited liability’ I was undertaking in the service of our Queen, the Crown, on behalf of my country. There are things worth dying for.

      Even Jesus talks about this; and about how the greatest kind of love is best expressed in the willingness to die for somebody else. John 15:13 Jesus said, “The greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends.” Soldiers understand this. They realize that sometimes it’s a matter of life or death and they put their life on the line practically every day. Jesus says the greatest measure of love is the willingness to sacrifice your life for somebody else. And that’s precisely what HE did for us. The epitome of love, its best definition and greatest expression, is Jesus dying on the cross for us sinners. You measure love not by what people tell you, but by the willingness to sacrifice. The greater the sacrifice, the deeper the love.

      2. I must sacrifice my comfort. Soldiers do this all the time. Think of all the comforts soldiers give up in order to serve others. I remember sleeping on a little folding cot in a tent during military exercises at Petawawa. Driving with the troops early on a cold Saturday morning out to the firing range north of Sault Ste Marie, or down to Grayling in Michigan. Soldiers give up comfort. They go out and serve in the heat and they serve in the cold. During the ice storm cleanup in Eastern Ontario back in 1998, several trucks of reservists from our battalion in Sault Ste Marie and North Bay headed off into the cold winter to help those who were left without power for days. My part was to help staff the phone back at the command centre in the Sault. (certificate from PM)

      Those serving in the military give up their free schedule; they’re not free to do anything they want to do. The commanding officer says “I want you to do this or that.” They give up their freedom in order to preserve the freedom and wellbeing of other people. Soldiers give up their wealth: nobody gets wealthy becoming a soldier. They give up a lot of things. They sacrifice their own comfort for the hardships that they choose to put up with.

      This is true in other areas of life. You don’t become great without sacrificing. You don’t become great by five easy steps, by doing what’s comfortable.No! You become great by committing yourself to something greater than yourself and then being willing to sacrifice for that. The greater your sacrifice in life – the greater your character in life. 2Timothy 2:3 “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” Paul’s using this analogy of the military, saying just like a soldier puts up with hardship for the greater cause, you need to put up with hardship for a greater cause. What is the hardship in your life? What is following Christ making difficult for you?

      It could be you’re criticized some. That’s a hardship: ostracized, made fun of. Anytime you do what’s right, it’s never easy, and others resent it because they find it easier to do what’s wrong. It’s harder to tell the truth than use a little white lie to protect yourself. It’s harder to forgive instead of getting even, to let go instead of taking revenge. It’s harder to be kind, to be unselfish than selfish. These are hardships in following Christ; it’s not easy. But the path to greatness, the path to being the best you could possibly be as a man or woman comes from first, defining what you’d die for. Then second, sacrificing your comfort. It’s a battle to do what’s right. We’re in a spiritual battle. Nothing great is ever accomplished without sacrifice.Ephesians 5:2 “Live a life of sacrificial love just like Christ loved us and gave himself as an offering and sacrifice for us.” If you want to be like Jesus Christ, you need to learn sacrificial love. Because Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice – his own life, an offering for others.

      Question: Do you want to be like Jesus? Who are you offering your life for? Who are you sacrificing your life for? Who are you putting up with hardships for besides yourself?

      A lot of people put up with hardships in order to get ahead, to succeed for personal goals. Are you involving yourself in any things that are hard to do for the benefit of other people? And sometimes you lose sleep because you’re helping other people, you spend some of your money, you lose your privacy because you’re helping somebody else. These are hardships. I must sacrifice my comfort.

      The third thing we learn from a soldier is that…

      3. I must eliminate distractions. If I want to be the best woman or man I could be, I’ve got to eliminate distractions. 2Tim 2:4 “As Christ's soldier, do not let yourself become entangled in the affairs of this life, wasting time, for then you can’t please your commanding officer who enlisted you in his army.” A soldier must have the freedom to respond, the flexibility when his commanding officer says Go. No soldier says, “Sorry, I’m busy right now.I’m watching The Batchelor or Heartland. Too bad, I’m busy – I’ve gotta check Facebook, update my Instagram, I’m going to play on my XBox.” No. Soldiers realize you can’t be involved in the affairs of civilian life because they have to be ready at a moment’s notice to do what their commanding officer tells them to do. You have to eliminate distractions.

      How much of your time is invested in things that aren’t going to matter five years from today, much less in eternity? How much of your energy is invested, or your money, in things that aren’t going to matter five years from today, much less for eternity? If you want to be great, if you want to be the best version of yourself for God, you must start spending more of your time, money, and energy on things that are going to last forever – and less on things that don’t really matter. Stop reading those websites about stories of people you don’t even care about. It’s a waste of time, of brain space.

      What could you give up? An hour of tv a week? What could you give up in order to make more time for the things that matter in life? To love, to serve, to know God, to worship.

      These are the things we learn from effective soldiers: define what I would die for; sacrifice my comfort; eliminate distractions.

      Next Paul moves to the second example, sports. Let’s look at the serious athlete. The second most used analogy for the Christian life in the Bible is an athlete. The Bible compares your life to a race, not a dash but a marathon. My job as your pastor is to help you get across the finish line because you’re in a race. I don’t want you to get sidelined or to get run off into a ditch. I want you to make it to the finish line and win the prize!1Corinthians 9:24-27 “In a race everyone runs, [In other words everyone in life is living their life] but only one person wins the prize.So run your race to win! TO WIN the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a ribbon or medal that won’t last, but we do it for an eternal reward that will last forever! So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win.I'm not just shadow-boxing or playing around.Like an athlete I discipline myself.Making sacrifices, and training my body to do what it should, not what it wants to do.Otherwise I fear I might be disqualified from the race.”

      Just like the soldier has three things to teach us, the athlete has three things to teach us about being the best we can be.

      1. I must intend to win. If I’m going to win in life, it’s got to be intentional. It’s not going to happen unless I have a goal. You will not become great by accident. You will not become the best woman you could possibly be or the best man you could possibly be just casually. It only happens if you intend to be the best you can be: if you intend to have a great soul, intend to have a worthy goal. This is the difference between being a casual Christian and a committed Christian.

      Question: How serious are you about being what God made you to be? “I kind of like to do it in my spare time...” No; it isn’t going to happen. How serious are you about being the best you could possibly be? 1Cor 9:24“In a race everyone runs, but only one person wins the prize.So run your race to win!” You should be living your life in a way that you’re running to win. God wants you to win, not to be a loser. But you’ve got to do this intentionally.

      Some listening are never going to be the best man or the best woman you could be, because you’ve never intended to be; you’re not willing to pay the price. You don’t want it badly enough. How deeply - REALLY - do you want to win the prize that God has for you in life?

      You ask, “What’s the prize?” 1Timothy 6:12 “Run your best in the race of faith, and win eternal life for yourself; for this is the life that God called you to when you professed your faith before many witnesses.” What does it mean, “you professed your faith before many witnesses”? It’s talking about your baptism. When you’re baptized you’re professing your faith in front of many witnesses. It says, You need to “run your best” race; you need to do it intentionally. Say, “God, I really goofed off in a lot of my earlier life but I want the rest of my life to be the best of my life. I want to make it count; I want to make up for lost time. And I’m serious about this. I’m not going to be a casual Christian. I want your best for my life.” To be the best I can be for God, first, I have to do it intentionally.Second…

             2. I MUST DISCIPLINE MYSELF. Of course this is what athletes do. No athlete becomes pro calibre without discipline and training. You don’t become great by doing whatever you feel. You don’t become great by living by your moods. You can’t just make up your own rules; you need to be disciplined. There are no short cuts to maturity, to greatness. Verse 5“If anyone competes as an athlete, he cannot receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules.” And 1Corinthians 9:25-27 “To win the contest you must deny yourself many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes into strict training just to win a ribbon or medal that won’t last, but we do it for an eternal reward that will last forever! ... So I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should...”

      Olympic athletes give up much in order to win a gold medal. They put their life on hold, their social life on hold. They have a rigid schedule of when to get up in the morning, go to bed at night. They have a rigid schedule at the table – what they eat and won’t eat, what they do, or don’t do. They make enormous sacrifices to win gold or silver or bronze.

      Here’s the thing: the Bible says nobody’s even going to remember those awards and yet they gave their whole life, for something that’s just going to vanish. It’s not going to last. But the apostle observes it’s a wise move to do that for something that’s going to last forever in eternity and to make your life count.

      So what are some things I can do without so I can spend more time with God, give more to God, serve more, be more of what God wants me to be? What am I willing to do without in order to be the best? Am I willing to do without popularity? wealth? comfort?

      Start now to be more disciplined. How? You don’t need will power; you need God’s power. How do you get God’s power? By focusing on his reward. The secret to personal discipline is in this verse: “We do it for an eternal reward.” The third key we learn from athletes, to be the best you can be for God...

      3. I MUST stay focused on the reward. What’s the payoff for doing right? for doing good? What’s the payoff of serving Jesus Christ? Rewards throughout eternity. That’s no little ribbon or thing you’re going to get in this life. What caused Jesus to be able to endure the cross – how was He able to put up with all the beating, the suffering, punishment, torture? The Bible says he looked beyond the pain to the reward that he was going to receive and the benefit and the prize and the payoff. Hebrews 12:2 “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in.Study how he did it.Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that joyful finish with God in heaven—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever.And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”

      You can handle enormous pain in your life (and discipline) if you realize there’s a better purpose for it and there’s going to be a payoff at the end. When you forget the payoff, the reward, the prize, then you’re liable to give up. That’s why Paul says run to win in your life and keep your eye on the prize. Know what God’s doing. Can you imagine yourself in heaven receiving the prize of God? Hearing the Lord say to *you*, “Well done, you good and faithful servant!” Let that motivate you.

      1Corinthians 9:26 “I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step! I fight to win.I’m not just shadow-boxing or playing around.” The problem with a lot of people today, they’re just shadow boxing. They’re air guitaring their Christian life. They’re pretending; they’re just playing around, batting the air; they’re not serious. (A bit like the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, a balloon into which Jesus poked a pin.) But Paul says, “run straight to the goal.” You need to stay focused on the finish line. Everything you see is one day going to be gone. So you shouldn’t be investing a lot of time and money and energy in these passing follies. Instead, be primarily investing your time in things that are going to last forever. What’s that? Love, the Word of God and people. Those are going to last forever; everything else isn’t going to last. So ignore the crowds who jeer: keep your eye on the goal and don’t waste energy.

      Finally, Paul says you can learn from agriculture and farmers some truths about your spiritual life. 2Corinthians 9:6-13 “Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop.But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give.Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure.For God loves the person who gives cheerfully.Then God will generously provide all you need, [now, there’s some promise!] and you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others...For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat.In the same way, [Just like he does with the farmer] he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you! Yes, you will be enriched SO THAT you can give even more generously! ...You will be glorifying God through your generous gifts, AND your generosity will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ!”

      Your life on earth is like planting a garden. You’ve got sixty, eighty (on average), at the most a hundred years. While you’re here you’re planting a garden. And the kind of seeds that you plant while you’re here on earth, you’re going to harvest in heaven. If you plant generously, you’re going to have a lot of fruit in heaven. But if you plant sparingly, you‘re a miser and you hold it back and you don’t give it away, you’re not going to have much up there. If you sow generously, you’re going to reap generously. Multiple times in the Bible Jesus gives the same command: “Store up treasure for yourself in heaven.” (Mt 6:20f; cf.Lk 12:33; 18:22) Are you doing that? Plant seeds of generosity. Give your life away. When you help somebody else, when you’re unselfish, when you serve, when you put yourself out for the benefit of somebody else, when you’re generous with your time/your money and your income/your reputation/your talent, and you use it for the benefit of others instead of yourself – you are planting seeds of generosity. Sow generously, because you want a lot of fruit in heaven. Final lesson...

      To reap a great harvest, I must plant generously in faith. Rick and Kay Warren give away 91% percent of their income and live on nine. They raised that from ten percent every year for forty years. You cannot outgive God! They’re an example of planting generously.

      Jesus gives two promises about planting generously. Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given back to you.You will be given much.It will be poured into your hands—more than you can hold.You will be given so much that it will spill into your lap.The way you give to others is the way God will give to you.” The way you give to others is the way God will give to you. Start being generous in planting seeds in this life to harvest in the next.

      In Mark 10:29-30 Jesus gives a guarantee about anything you give up for his sake: “I guarantee you this: anyone who gives up anything for my sake and the Good News – whether a home or a family member or property – will get MORE THAN THAT BACK, [This is a guarantee of Jesus] multiplied a hundredfold, AND in the world to come they will be given life forever!” God says that anything that I give up for his sake, for his kingdom, anything I sacrifice for him will be returned a hundred fold. That’s ten thousand percent interest! Do you know any stock broker who will guarantee that? No, you don’t! Only God and his Son can do that. “Father and Son Recycling & Restoration” says the sign on the truck – in business with people like you for two thousand years.

      That’s the promise of God. You can either believe it or not. But if you question it, why do you believe Jesus will save you and take you to heaven? It’s the same Jesus. Why do some people trust God with their eternal salvation yet won’t trust God with their finances? That doesn’t make sense.

      So there you have it, three people – the effective soldier saves lives. The effective athlete wins the prize. And the effective farmer harvests a larger size, a hundred fold.

      Consider what is it you might give up or let go of in order to devote more time/energy/resources to the things that really matter in life. What is it that I can let go of in order to give more, to serve more, to share more, to be more, to be all God wants me to be, in order to be the best I can be? A lot of things in your life you could probably do without and you wouldn’t even miss them. But you can’t do without a daily, deep connection with Jesus Christ. If you’re going to grow and become the person God wants you to be, you’ve GOT to have a daily deep connection with Jesus Christ. You can’t live a day without him. Because these things we just talked about, you can’t do them on your own. You can’t do them consistently on willpower; you need God’s power. You need to be plugged in to him. You need His Holy Spirit’s supply in order toto be like Jesus, if you really want to live a life of sacrificial love.

      Jim Elliot and four of his best friends heard about a tribe in the deep jungles of the Amazon in Ecuador who had never heard the name of Jesus Christ. A very primitive tribe. No Bible, no believer, no church. So these five men said we’re going to give ourselves as missionaries to reach this tribe that nobody has ever shared the good news with. They knew they couldn’t just walk in: it was a pretty violent tribe. So they started dropping gifts overhead from planes that they’d fly over the jungle. They were trying to soften them up.

      Finally after about six months of preparation they decided to make first contact with this tribe. They found a little sandbar on the Amazon river where they could actually land a plane. They flew in and got out to meet the natives for the very first time. When those five missionaries were martyred in their very first attempt to share the good news with those natives, the world was rocked. Many people said, “What a waste! Those people went to tell them the good news and they didn’t even get to share it and they gave their lives.”

      But that wasn’t the end of the story. In his closing moments, Jim Elliot looked up at the tribal chief who was killing him at that moment and offered words of forgiveness: something stuck in the chief’s heart and he began to soften. Later, some of the wives of those missionaries said, We’re going to go in now. And Elizabeth Elliot, Jim Elliot’s wife, took her young daughter and Rachel Saint, the sister of one of the other missionaries, those brave, courageous, “daring faith” women moved to that tribe, and moved in with them. They began to share the good news. The natives were so shocked that the wives would come after they’d killed the husbands! But they began to share the good news – and the tribe converted to Christ.

      The man who was the leader and who killed Jim Elliot later had Steve Saint – the son of one of the men killed – come and live with him; and Steve Saint adopted him as his father, the man who killed his own dad.

      The leader, named Mincaye, became a devout Christian and then became a preacher and began to travel the world telling people about the good news of forgiveness. In 2006 he spoke at Saddleback Church; a picture from that occasion shows Mincaye just beaming the love of Jesus Christ, no longer a hater, no longer filled with rage and jealousy, but a lover and a preacher of the good news. How did that man come to Christ? Because somebody was willing to sacrifice. There are some things worth dying for.

      Odds are you won’t actually be asked to give your life for Jesus Christ. But would you be willing? Or are you just a casual Christian – not a committed Christian? Are you willing to sacrifice your own comfort, to discipline yourself, to sow your life generously for the greater good of other people? That’s what it means to be like Jesus. Let’s pray.