Summary: If Paul were overseeing the church in the USA, he would be in a frenzy. Look at how stressed he was about a couple of congregations in Greece.
A Stressed Apostle
1. I want to thank Jake for preaching last week.
2. We enjoyed Luke and Sarah’s wedding very much; all went well. But even a positive, successful wedding tires you out. Last Sunday morning, we were still recovering from Saturday’s wedding, about 250 miles away.
3. We get tired from events that do not burn calories because they deplete our emotional energy. As a pastor, I experience this depletion quite a bit. It is the feeling you get after an event like this, or a funeral of one close to you, or a performance on stage. It is caused by stress, ultimately.
4. Paul the apostle knew this kind of fatigue because he experienced great stress. And his stress was actually a fear that the Colossian and Laodicean believers would be lead astray or falter.
5. American Christianity is in dire straights. IMO, evangelical Christians have never been so ignorant of the Bible nor so poorly trained in our land, and thus vulnerable to error and apostasy.
Main Idea: If Paul were overseeing the church in the USA, he would be in a frenzy. Look at how stressed he was about a couple of congregations in Greece.
I. What Made Paul – and Should Make Us – STRESSED? (1)
A. He AGONIZED over something worth agonizing over
Mental anguish is part of life; the balance is hard to maintain
1. Agony over things we can control or significant consequences is understandable
• Jesus in Gethsemane
• A president's decision to go to war
• Did I lay off the right person? Should I have or not have surgery for this?
• If we don't agonize over crucial matters, we will be irresponsible
2. Agonizing over things we cannot change or insignificant matters is often sin
• We don't like who won the election (get over it)
• We wish we were taller or shorter (not going to change)
• We worry whether we got a tank of gas before the price rises (small consequences)
3. The spiritual welfare of believers under us is something we can influence and is crucial
B. He was concerned that these believers were not MATURE enough to withstand error
1. Urgency — this text really spoke to me; do I have this urgency for you?
2. How do government agents recognize counterfeit money?
C. We need to take to heart the CALL to maturity
Hebrews 5:11-12, “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.”
D. Many churches ACCOMMODATE and ACCEPT ignorance rather than challenge it
Many churches are at a crossroads right now: do we cater to the culture, and do we expect to lead Christians out of the world and into life in the God's kingdom as present here on earth?
Having a mechanism in place has limited results if people do not come (e.g., Sunday School)
Tokenism reigns in the Christian world (Ginny and printer)… prayer meeting/evangelism training
“…the actual rate of church attendance from head counts is less than half of the 40% the pollsters report. Numbers from actual counts of people in Orthodox Christian churches (Catholic, mainline and evangelical) show that in 2004, 17.7% of the population attended a Christian church on any given weekend.
Another study published in 2005 in The Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion by sociologists C. Kirk Hadaway and Penny Long Marler — known for their scholarly research on the Church — backs up his findings. Their report reveals that the actual number of people worshipping each week is closer to Olson"s 17.7% figure — 52 million people instead of the pollster-reported 132 million (40%).” (churchleaders.com)
We live in a day when Christians need to understand more about their faith than ever, but they understand less instead. We have to figure out how to fight this. Not everyone is a self-feeder!
If Paul were overseeing the church in the USA, he would be in a frenzy. Look at how stressed he was about a couple of congregations in Greece.
II. How Can We Be LESS Vulnerable? (2-5)
The short answer: we need to be fortified, hunkered down, trained, armed, and alert
A. ENCOURAGEMENT in the truth
1. Too many hardships in life, too many temptations, easy to become unmotivated
2. Not all of us are socially cozy (I don’t like put down humor, unsolicited easy advice)
3. Too many competing voices
4. All believers, especially ungrounded ones, need to be encouraged toward the truth