Summary: Life on earth as an offering to God
Sermon Preached at Grace Community Church (EPC)
Sun City Grand, Surprise, AZ
Sunday, May 1, 2016
by the Reverend Cooper McWhirter
The Pursuit of Excellence: “Finishing Life Well!” [Part Three]
In the sermon outline it mentions how each of the apostles suffered for the cause of Christ; most having died a martyr’s death. Yet, not one of them renounced their faith! But irrespective of how they died, and why they died; what should be uppermost in our minds was how they LIVED! In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul explained: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” [Philippians 1:21]. God doesn’t need your dying to prove you are HIS. As His follower, He wants you to live for Him by virtue of your faith in Him!
With that being said, people are reluctant to die for something they know is untrue. The entire premise of both their and our faith, is based upon knowing and believing that Jesus died a physical death, and arose from the dead bodily, and ascended into heaven where He sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty! They knew it. They believed it. They lived it. And they died on account of it. In a nutshell, that’s the ‘crux of the cross’! Jesus’ death and resurrection is not a supposition. It is not conjecture. Our faith either stands, or falls upon this one irrefutable, irrevocable truth…Christ lives!
In what became as the last known epistle written by Paul, he encourages his young protégé, Timothy, to continue the work of an evangelist. But before we delve into these few poignant words, I want you to notice not only what Paul wrote, but why he wrote it. Notice Paul’s demeanor. His words are not those of a discouraged, or brokenhearted man. There’s not a hint of despair, or hopelessness as his execution loomed ominously on the horizon. In fact, his words convey a calmness, an inner-peace in spite of his perilous circumstances.
Paul was a prisoner in the infamous Mamertine prison in Rome. His small, cramped cell was a dark, dank, dungeon; reachable only by rope or latter from a hole in the floor above. There were no windows, no natural sunlight, no running water, and no fresh air ventilation. The odor was foul and pungent in this confined space which compelled him to wallow in his own excrement.
Presumably, Paul’s confinement was brief. There were only a few, some say only two cramped cells. A prisoner incarcerated there was not expected to live for very long under those dire conditions; usually these "holding cells" were reserved for those awaiting execution.
During Paul’s confinement, his thoughts were of seeing his risen Lord. The same Lord whom he gazed upon decades before while traveling on the road to Damascus. He also took time to reflect on his past labors and those who had labored alongside him.
After nearly thirty years of preaching the gospel, some might dare ask, “What did he have to show for himself?” At best there was but a sprinkling of small house churches scattered throughout parts of the Middle East, Europe, and Asia Minor. Yet, in spite of this seemingly abysmal record, he was a man at peace with himself. In quieted repose he could honestly say with confidence what Oswald Chambers later refrained: “My Utmost for His Highest”!