Summary: God doesn’t call us to be successful - but faithful! Leave success to God.

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Now that Thanksgiving is over with, I’ve turned my attention – as many of you have probably done – toward Advent and Christmas. There is the decorating of the tree, the planning of parties and gatherings, and the writing of Christmas cards.

Some of the people I send Christmas cards to are folks I don’t hear from very often, and they don’t hear from me, so I like to carefully construct a note.

In writing a Christmas card, as with any letter, there is a certain formality. There is a salutation –

“Dear Fred.”

There is the signature – “Maynard and Ginny”

And in the middle, there are certain things that must be said, “I’m alive. I’m well. I’m doing this and that. I hope you are also alive, and that you are also well.”

Our New Testament reading is from a letter that St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth. And as with our culture, in Paul’s culture, there was a certain formality that was observed. There was the salutation, the signature, the body of the letter, the date. Pretty much as it is today.

In Paul’s day, however, there was a lot more formality to it. There was a diplomacy that had to be observed.

Often times, there was be a little bit of fluff, before getting to the heart of the matter -- especially in informal letters between friends and family.

For example, a person today might write a letter that started with fluff like this: "Dear Joe, I was thinking about you on Thanksgiving Day when I was watching the games on television. I remember when I bought tickets to last year’s Orange Bowl and we went together, your family and my family together. I hope your wife is doing well. I heard her father died. Tell her we are thinking of you."

And then after a sufficient amount of diplomatic fluff, we get down to the business... "However, since your team lost, you owe me a hundred dollars."

Paul follows the pattern of writing letters that was followed in his day. But what he does with the fluff is that he turns it into an opportunity for prayer.

In Corinth, Paul had a lot to deal with. This was a church that had all sorts of problems.

There was a man who was having a sexual relationship with his father’s wife.

There were church fights that were becoming court room battles.

There were issues about sexual ethics, marriage, worship of idols, and there were serious disruptions in the worship services.

But before getting down to business, he starts in a diplomatic fashion. He begins by saying, "Let us pray."

“I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way-- in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—“

Wait a minute, is this the same church we’re talking about? Sexual immorality, disruptive worship, courtroom battles?

“…because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift …”

Wait a minute, is this the same church we’re talking about? Sexual immorality, disruptive worship, courtroom battles?

“Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end…”

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