SERVICE TO CHRIST IS A MATTER OF THE HEART AS IS SALVATION
If asked to name ten persons other than Christ who gave his or her all for the Cause of Christ, one would think that Mother Teresa would be near the top. She not only lived 87 years, she loved 87 years. One of her quotes says it all:
“I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I DO know that, when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, He will NOT ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ Rather He will ask, ‘How much LOVE did you put into what you did?”
Mother Teresa felt in her heart at a very early age that the struggle to find hope and purpose in life is universal. Thus, she spent her entire life loving people even in ways that no one else dare to love.
It is not that we all are saved and called to be Mother Teresa’s but that we are saved and called to serve Christ as best we can where we can in whatever way we can, be it large-scale as it was with her or small-scale as it is with most of us.
Writing against the background of his own hardship because of his personal commitment to Christ, Paul sought to encourage those who would follow in his steps to be strong in the LORD – 2 Timothy 2:1-2 . . .
There simply is no way a person whose heart is not in it is going to either get on board the gospel train or put themselves through the toil and trouble that is bound to be theirs once they do. You gotta be faithful and you gotta be able. So, we older folks have little choice except to depend, as did Paul, on the younger generation to carry on where we leave off.
Does that dependence on those younger than we mean that the rest of us whose lives were changed when Jesus came into our hearts are exempt from any kind of Christian witness or sharing of the gospel? The obvious answer is “No”.
Just as we have been blessed by the faithful service of others, we are to be a blessing to others in whatever ways we have left for being faithful unto death – and it is not for me to tell you what way or how many ways there are that remain. You yourself have to make that determination in consultation with the Lord.
However, there is one quality of Christian commitment that is expected of young and old alike - whether there be one way or many ways left to us, and that is, endurance – 2 Timothy 2:3-7 . . .
Here again, as in the case of Mother Teresa, if asked to name ten Christians other than Jesus and I would add other than the Apostle Paul who endured to the bitter end in spite of troubles that plagued them, near the top would be the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer – executed by Nazis because of his Christian convictions. His last words were, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.”
Three images were used by Paul to convey to Timothy and all others who would become disciplined followers of Christ what it takes to stand up for Jesus – soldier, athlete and farmer.
A soldier is duty-bound to obey orders and suffer hardships if need be to gain the victory for the commander in chief who, in this case, is Christ the Lord.
An athlete will win the prize that he strives for only if he plays by the rules, which means he has to know what the rules are. Any Christian endeavor worth the toil and trouble requires an effective Disciple of Christ to know the doctrines of the Christian Faith as taught in God’s Word.
A farmer is a hard worker who starts at sun-up and stops at sunset then gets plenty of rest and starts the cycle over again until the planting, the cultivating and the harvest is done.
All three images depict the requirements of faithful discipleship – devotion, discipline, and diligence. The cost of discipleship is higher for some than others, but the reward of the faithful is the blessing of the Lord – sooner or later.
The important thing is for the disciple of Christ to stay focuses, to stay on message, and for that reason, we constantly need to remind ourselves whose we are and whom we serve – 2 Timothy 2:8-10 . . .
Now that we are much older than we were when we started our Christian journey, there is one word that we still have to live by, and that is, “Remember”! How is your memory?
A patient looked a little worried when the doctor came in to administer his annual physical, so the first thing the doctor did was to ask whether anything was troubling him. “Well, to tell you the truth, Doc, yes. You see, I seem to be getting forgetful. I’m never sure I can remember where I put the car, or whether I answered a letter, or where I’m going, or what it is I’m going to do once I get there – if indeed I get there. So, I really need your help. What can I do?”
The doctor thought for a moment, then answered in his most sympathetic tone of voice, “You can pay me in advance.”
What all did Paul tell Timothy to remember?
There are three essential memories that devoted, disciplined, diligent disciples of Christ have to keep in mind and heart, and never forget, if they’re going to stay focused on the Message and remain faithful to the Cause:
(1) Remember Jesus Christ risen from the dead. In our heart of hearts, it is so important that we never lose sight of the fact that, not only did God raise His Son from the dead but that Christ our Lord is alive and ever-present. This is our inspiration!
Whatever we are facing or will ever face, whatever our task is or may be, wherever we have to go, if we are truly His disciples, we do so in the certainty that we are not alone. We know there is with us now and forever the presence and power of our Lord.
(2) Remember Jesus Christ born of the seed of David. Christ our Lord lived on earth as did his ancestors. He trod the roads and faced the struggles they did, and that we do. We have with us not only the glorified Christ, we have also the presence of Him who knew the struggles of being “one of us” yet followed God’s Will for his life to the bitter or better end – and so must we.
(3) Remember the gospel . . . the good news . . . that the world is longing for good news. It’s just that so many are looking for it in the wrong places and putting their trust in false gods.
The Christian Church has a duty to keep on sharing the gospel in any and every way conceivable . . . must never give in or give up . . . has One Great Task, based on One Great Commitment to One Great Savior who is the answer to One Great Problem that occurred as a result of falling short of our One Great Purpose for which One Great Creator brought us into this world.
As we continue life’s journey, may we never forget that, according to God’s plan and for His purpose we were brought into this world, by His lovingkindness we have been sustained, by His grace we have been redeemed, by His presence we are being reassured all the days of our lives, and by His power we shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever. Amen.