We began a new series last weekend called Devoted – it’s a series designed to help us consider what a life devoted to God looks like. At the end of the message, Dave challenged every one of us to be devoted by being present in worship every weekend for the entire series. I hope that you, like me, have taken that challenge to heart and plan to be present this weekend as we continue with this simple, yet profound truth: The devoted stay.
There are a lot of truths that are easier said than done, and this is certainly one of them. More than ever, our world has an “out” for everything. Don’t like your college major, change it—it will only tack on an additional two years. Not getting along with your manager at work, walk across the street and apply over there. Struggling in your marriage, just call one of the hundred divorce attorneys you hear on the radio or see on the billboards daily. Offended by something that was said at church, there are a dozen more within a 5-mile radius. Surely one of them will meet the standard you’ve set for what a church should look like.
The world says if you aren’t happy, if you get upset or disillusioned or even just tired, then it’s time to change course. But Scripture gives us a different example of commitment, of what it means to stay even when your feelings are hurt, or you’re a little discouraged, or you feel a sudden onset of weariness. Look at how Paul describes the devoted and committed life to his friend and disciple Timothy:
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
In Paul’s words, I hear weariness. As he wrote them, I’m sure he was recalling the moments when he was persecuted, insulted, arrested, beaten and left for dead. The times when those he led to Christ were falling back into their old ways and the easy thing would have been to leave them to their sin and failures. He was thinking about the difficulties of the past and the challenges that still lie ahead. Even still, his words were absolute – I have fought the good fight I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Can you say the same thing? Can you say the same thing as it relates to your marriage – the most important earthly relationship that God has given you? See, through His Word, God calls us to remain committed to the one whom we promised, “Till death do we part.” Marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for the Church. Jesus made a commitment to us just as a groom makes a commitment to his bride. But whereas marriages fail every day because the husband or wife steps out or walks away in disillusionment, Jesus has said that He will always stay, no matter how many times we mess up.
Can you say the same thing as it relates to your commitment to the church? One of the easiest things to do is walk away from the church to which we have committed. This should not be. Even among Christians, the mentality has been, “If my needs aren’t met…If I’m not being served…If I’m offended or my feelings get hurt, then I’ll just go someplace else.” Notice the emphasis is on me, and not on God, as it should be. It is impossible to grow in faith by jumping ship every couple of years – every time we begin to feel like we aren’t important enough to the church anymore. Restarting is not the solution, it is an immature way of handling difficulties and challenges that will inevitably come. We grow by persevering through those challenges and remaining committed to the local body where we have decided to plant our roots.
Finally, what about your devotion to faith? Scripture has several warnings for those who walk away from the faith. Paul’s own words affirm that the crown of righteousness, given to the believer by Jesus, is reserved for those who finish the race, though not all will finish the race. The author of Hebrews writes, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.” This is a stern warning against growing weary and walking away from the faith that we once professed in Jesus Christ but perhaps weren’t really convinced.
As I said before, easier said than done. Staying is an intentional decision – it takes work. The easy thing to do is to pack up and leave. The difficult thing is to remain, to persevere, to commit no matter what comes. This weekend, we will consider some practical ways that we can prepare to stay. I hope that you will meet the challenge of being here every weekend during this series by your presence on Sunday morning at 10:30 AM.
And don’t forget to join us at the Jeffersonville Aquatic Center at 6:30 PM on Saturday evening to celebrate a great week of Vacation Bible School!