Summary: The question isn’t, "Does Christianity Work?" The important question is "How?" What is there about Christ’s teachings that make a real difference in our lives?
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
CENTRAL CHRISTIAN, BROWNSVILLE, TX
A. Thanksgiving Day is over, & if you have been to the mall, you know that the Christmas shopping season is well on its way. But let me ask you, "What gift can you buy for people well up in years who already have pretty much everything they need?"
ILL. Well, that was a problem a friend of mine had last year. His parents live on a farm, & he had no idea what to get them. But one day, his dad said something that caused him to believe that his folks might like to have a VCR.
So he bought them a VCR & spent the next day teaching his 79-year-old dad how to program it. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. But by the time their visit ended, dad seemed to have it all figured out.
You know, VCRs have been around for a while, but his dad had never expressed a desire for one before. But once he decided that it wasn’t just a fad, & there was some benefit to be derived from it, he wanted one.
APPL. Most of us are like that, aren’t we? We’re always looking for things that make life better. "Will this benefit me? Will this make life a little easier?" We’re interested in results.
And once we’re convinced that it works, & we can afford it, then we usually try to get it, because we want things that benefit our life. So one of the questions that we ask is, "Does it work? Does it really work?"
B. That question can be applied to Christianity, too. "Does it work?" There are some who would answer, "No, I don’t think so, & I’m not interested in trying to find out." While others say, "I tried it once, & it didn’t work."
But millions of others say emphatically, "Yes, Christianity works! We’ve found real blessings in being a Christian. It changed our lives & our relationship with others. It really works!"
So let me ask you, "If Christianity works - & the Bible says it does - if it really does produce lives filled with love & joy & peace & kindness & gentleness, if it really does change relationships for the good, then why aren’t there millions more clamoring to become Christians?" Why aren’t people saying, "Please let me become a Christian. Please let me in so I can have Jesus as my Savior, too"?
C. Maybe the answer is that we have not presented the message clearly. Maybe people have come with false & self?centered expectations, & thus met with disappointment. So they have walked away, unfulfilled.
PROP. You see, the question isn’t, "Does Christianity work?" The important question is, "How? How does Christianity work? What is there about Christ’s teachings that makes a real difference in our lives?" To answer that, let’s look at 2 Timothy, chapter 4.
As he writes these words, the Apostle Paul is in prison, charged with being an insurrectionist against the Roman Empire. He has spent nearly 4 years in prison, two back in Israel, & almost two more in Rome. He has already appeared in court at least once in Rome, & now the court is waiting for more evidence to arrive from his accusers.
So he writes these words we find in 2 Timothy 4, & in them is revealed the way Christianity works & makes a difference in our lives.
I. GOD GIVES US GRACE FOR THE DISAPPOINTMENTS OF LIFE
A. Look at vs. 16. Paul says, "At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them." One way that Christianity works in our lives is revealed when we realize that God gives us grace to face the disappointments of life.
Paul says, "No one came to my support, but everyone deserted me." Do you hear the disappointment in his words? Back in the vs. 10 he wrote, "Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me & has gone to Thessalonica."
Now in other letters Paul mentions long lists of friends. So we know that there were those who could have given testimony as to his innocence. They could have stood beside him & said, "We know that Paul is not an insurrectionist. We know he is not guilty of these charges. We know he is innocent."
They could have testified on his behalf, but for some reason, whether they were afraid for their own lives, or whatever, they simply weren’t there. And we hear his disappointment. "No one came," he said, "everyone deserted me."
B. Now how do you handle that kind of disappointment & heartache? Notice how Paul handled it, & how he had learned it ultimately from Jesus.