Are you laboring in vain?

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” (Ps 127:1-2)

Are you anxious? Do you lay awake at night worrying? The psalmist reminds us this morning that we should not be anxious. If the Lord wants our project, our church, our (insert what you are fretting over) to work out, it will be successful.

James, one of the apostles, picks up on this idea 1000’s of years later in his letter when he says,

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)

It is not our will that we seek to do but the Lord’s. It is His will that we should ask He do in our prayer closet (Mt 6:10). We know our God is a good God. He doesn’t desire our harm (Mt 6:25-34). We can and should trust the Lord rather than worrying. What the Lord desires to be built will be built.

In saying we must trust the Lord and that He will build what He desires, we must not believe we are absolved from activity. We must work, putting forth effort, using the talents and gifts the Lord has provided. As we walk step by step each day, we can trust that the Lord will provide for us, as well as He will build, if it be His will.

When, then, if at all possible through prayer and counsel, we need to find what the Lord is doing and join Him in it.

The Redeemed Live Holy Lives by Gospel-driven Reflection

“When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.” – Psalm 114:1-2

When God led Israel out of bondage in Egypt, He did so because they were His people. In the desert He tabernacles among them. His presence took up residence in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies. Likewise the nation was to be comprised of holy people who were set apart unto God. Their holiness was to mark them as different from the other nations allowing them to witness to the changing power of the One true God.

Just as Israel were to be a holy people where the Lord dwelled, we are to be holy as well. Peter expands on the idea when he writes,

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:14-16

As children of God we are to be holy just as Christ is holy. Christ is the key. Just as Israel was redeemed from physical bondage in Egypt, we are redeemed from spiritual bondage by Jesus.

“knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” – 1 Peter 1:18-19

As Christians then, we are to be holy, aligning ourselves with God’s will and focusing our attention on Jesus as the motivation to live holy lives. Until we recognize that there is no other savior but Jesus, we will always run to other gods, to idols, to those things we believe will provide what only Jesus can.

In order to pursue holiness, your focus has to be on Jesus and the gospel. Holiness is not the result of work-driven effort, but of gospel-driven reflection.

How Can We Guard Against Being a Stagnant Christian? – Part 3

Stagnating in our faith is never a good thing. It is something we need to guard against. But how?

How do we guard against being a stagnant Christian?

We guard against becoming stagnant Christians by staying focused on what awaits us

In verse 11 of 2 Peter 1 we read,

“For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pe 1:11)

The first time I traveled back home from a long week of classes at Southern Seminary my flight was delayed. We were actually loaded on the plane, about to push back when the pilot came over the intercom and said, “Folks, this is your captain speaking. A thunderstorm is rolling into the area, and we are going to have to wait for it to pass before we can take off.” What the captain thought was a passing thunderstorm turned into several passing thunderstorms. Just as soon as one moved out of the area, another would pop up. So we waited…and waited…and waited, until finally just after midnight we were able to take off.

When we finally landed and deplaned in Dallas, it was close to 2 o’clock in the morning. I was tired. I had just spent a week away from home, attending class all day, and sleeping in a foreign bed. I was ready to be home, to say the least. That’s what made that drive doable, that’s what propelled me down the highway in the wee hours of the morning — the thought of home.

That’s the same thought that should propel us to supplement our faith with these qualities, the thought of our heavenly home. The home that awaits us is greater than any home that we can have in this world. It is perfect in every respect. It’s a home free from death, disease, and corruption. A home where God will reign and rule and the corrupting influence of sin won’t be felt because it won’t be present. That is the home that awaits us. The home we will walk into one day. So keep pressing on. Your eternal home awaits.

But here is the thing, we can’t press on alone. We have to have people around us helping us, encouraging us, pushing us forward, which tells us that:

We guard against becoming stagnant Christians by surrounding ourselves with those who will stir us up

Motivational speakers abound in this country. You can find someone to motivate you on almost any topic. The reason for that is because we need motivation. We need someone to stir us up so that we will head in the right direction.

But as helpful as motivational speakers can be, Christians don’t need them. Instead, what we need are other Christians dedicated to reminding us of these qualities. We need others who will remind us that we have been given all that we need to press on, that we have a glorious eternal home for which to look forward.

Look at verses 12-15,

“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” (2 Pe 1:12–15)

Just as Peter commits to remind his church and to make sure that they have someone to remind them when he is gone, we need others committed to reminding us, which is why we have a church family, and why we should not neglect to meet together with one another. We need one another. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. We can’t do it on our own. When we try, we end up becoming stagnant. It’s no coincidence that those who are not connected to the church, who are not active in fellowship are not growing in their faith. We need others right there alongside of us committed to encouraging us to keep running the race, and we need to do likewise. If we don’t, we are going to grill we’re going to become stagnant, unfruitful Christians for the kingdom.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Are you focused on the future?
  2. Do you have others around you holding you accountable and encouraging you?
  3. Do you gather with the church often?

Resources

Post developed from my sermon How can we guard against being a stagnant Christian?