Divine Order Of Operations
Always relate your experience to the world around you to God first, His work second, you and I come last.
Alright, thank you very much, and hello again, radio friends, how in the world are you? Everything alright at your house? Oh, I trust so, bless your heart, just been praying for you, all of you who fellowship with me on these precious few moments each day. Praying that God might bless you and strengthen you and encourage you and that something I have to say from God’s Word by the enablement of the Holy Spirit might bring joy and love and power into your life. I trust that might be so. We’re in 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, coming now to verse 14 he said, “Ye brethren became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus, for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have.” Couple of thoughts here. Your geographical location is important. The churches of God which are in Judea. Your geographical location’s important but there is another location that is even more important, that is that you’re in Christ.
The churches of God which are in Judea are in Christ Jesus. And so, pastor, you may have an inner city church or you may have a suburban church or you may have a rural church or you may be a traveling evangelist or you may be a Sunday School teacher or whatever your position may be in the Lord’s work. And circumstances then differ, you can’t run an inner city church as you would an affluent suburban church, it doesn’t work. There are different ways of doing things depending on different locations, aren’t there? But there is a oneness in the Lord Jesus Christ that gives you your super-location. All of us are in Christ Jesus and so the banker from suburbia kneels besides the laboring person who doesn’t even have a second suit of clothes to come to church in and the two of them meet at Calvary, because the ground is level at the cross, isn’t it? Ah, yes. The churches in Judea which are in Christ Jesus and it’s the church in Pittsburgh and the church in Chicago and the church in Los Angeles and the church in New York and the church in Atlanta and the church in whatever town you may live in which is in Christ Jesus, that’s the location that counts, in Christ, that’s what makes us one.
I remember traveling on a train in Italy with a brother who spoke no English and I speak Spanish rather easily, but Spanish doesn’t translate too well into Italian. The languages are similar, but it’s a little hard to transliterate them. So he met me at the airport with smiles and a handshake and got me through customs and we were on our way shortly to Naples on a train which was called the “Rapido”, a misnomer, it was making all of 35 miles an hour, I think. But there we were, he and I seated opposite each other and we soon ran out of anything that we could say to each other that was understood. Suddenly he had an inspiration and he said, looked at me and smiled, and said, “Hallelujah.” And I looked back at him, and I said, “Amen.” And he looked at me and smiled, and said, “Gloria a Gesù.” And I looked at him and smiled, and said, “Allelujah.” [laughter] We got along fine, I guess he must have been happy ’cause he shared his sandwich and a half a bottle of warm orange soda with me, as I recall. We got along alright, why? Because we were one in the relationship with a wonderful person who put the hallelujah in our hearts in the first place. Oh, thank God that’s so. You know, all the preaching in the world doesn’t make you feel different about somebody else, but when the two of you get together at the cross the differences fade and heavenly love takes over, isn’t it true? Yeah.
The churches of God in Judea which were in Christ Jesus… Well, he said, “You became followers of the churches.” I wonder what it was that they followed. When I was a young pastor, I got the deacons to give me permission to take three or four days off and to go visit a large church in the city of Detroit. This church had thousands of members and was growing at a prodigious rate, and I wanted to see what it was that made them tick, as you say, and so I went and studied that church. Well, I found they did some things that seemed quite effective and I tried to bring the ideas back and try them out in the little town where I was. And some things worked and some didn’t, but I was trying somehow to be an emulator, a follower of the success of that large city church. Well, I don’t think that’s what Paul had in mind here, do you? Followers of the churches of God in Judea, did they imitate the methods? Did they imitate the attitudes? No, really, the following that Paul is talking about has to do with their sufferings, said you got real with God and as a result you got the same treatment from unbelievers that they got.
One of the tests, which is not a very pleasant one, to be sure. But one of the tests of reality in Christ has to do with who is opposing you. If you are buddy-buddy with the people of the world and the heathen around you and the compromising people, the quasi- Christians who deny the Lord that bought them, and deny His Word, if you are really close friends with all of them, it tells us that maybe your New Testament Christianity needs an overhaul. But if the people who are compromising, and the people who hate God, and the people who are worldly, and the people who are living according to the secular humanistic standards of our society are opposing you, that is a good sign, isn’t it? You can tell a person’s caliber by who his enemies are. “So as ye became followers of us, for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have.” Now, as I say, it’s not a pleasant benchmark to look at. It’s not a pleasant test to undergo. But it is a very telling, a highly effective means of calibrating one’s own spiritual life and accomplishments. Who is blessed by your existence? And who is opposing you? When you find out what that is, you will have a pretty good idea of where you are, so far as spiritual effectiveness is concerned. Paul said to the folk at Philippi, “Unto you it is given, on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
And Paul said of himself, “I fill up the sufferings of Christ that are left behind.” There is some sense in which the sufferings, the heartbreak of the Savior over a lost world, has been extended as part of God’s grace to you and to me. Does your heart ache for the lost? And do your tears fall, for those whom you wish, oh, how you wish, they knew the Savior? Loved ones, relatives, friends, co-workers, whatever. This is part of the heritage of the cross. Paul said, “I fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ. Unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” And Paul said to his friends when he wrote to them, “Now the God of all grace, after ye have suffered a while, make you perfect.” Means “grown up.” “Make you mature and grown up, establish and strengthen you.” I don’t like the idea but, this is what God has said, that suffering and opposition, and heartache and tears are part of the experience of growing up as a Christian. “They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”, said the Psalmist. Does that strike a chord at all in your heart?
Most of us have gotten so used to taking things easy, and quitting under pressure, that any message that has to do with hardship turns us off, doesn’t it? I know I’m that way. I don’t like unpleasant things. And I don’t like opposition. I can’t understand why people oppose me when I’m such a nice guy, right? [chuckle] Well, let’s just remember, the part of the business of being a believer is that the devil’s crowd will fight you, Jesus will never leave you. And part of the process of growing up spiritually is to go through those pressures, which although you dislike them, tend to grow you up, and mature you, and establish you. So, don’t fight the opposition. Don’t fight back. Just plow right on through victoriously, in trusting your blessed Lord. You don’t have to protect yourself. Have you learned that? Don’t have to strike back. Don’t have to answer back. I learned that from my good friend, Paul Maddox, who came out of the chaplaincy. He was chief of chaplains in the European theater, then retired and came to help me in the early days of Youth For Christ. Oh, how I needed the expertise that he provided. To this day, I’m deeply grateful for the help the dear man gave me in helping to direct the affairs of Youth For Christ in its early days.
I was in the office one day, and I got a letter that was, it was so hot, that it almost crackled around the edges. This dear brother was telling me off, and I was dismayed. Just about that time, Colonel Maddox opened the door of the cubicle that was my office, and I said, “Paul, what in the world am I gonna do with a letter like this?” [chuckle] And he looked at it, read it, and then very calmly tore it to bits and dropped it in the waste basket. I said, “What did you do that for? Now, how can I answer it?” He said, “Bob, didn’t anybody ever tell you that you don’t have to answer every letter?” Well, that was a good lesson for me to learn, and I hope I learned it. I hope I learned when to file things in file 13, as we say. You don’t have to answer back, you don’t have to strike back. Jesus will take care of your opposition. You just be faithful to Him. And He provides the crown. It’s a good thought, isn’t it?
He goes on to speak about the opposition, says, “They killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and have persecuted us. They please not God, and they’re contrary to all men forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved. But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time, in presence, not in heart, endeavored the more abundantly to see your face with great desire. I would have come more than once, but Satan hindered us.” Now, the time will go before we can talk very much about these verses. But any perspective that you and I have about the opposition we face has to start with God. It says they killed the Lord Jesus, then it continues with the repercussions that are felt in God’s work that killed their own prophets. Then at long last, it comes down to what has happened to you and to me, have persecuted us. Always relate your experience with the world around you to God first, His work second, and you and I then, come last. Will you remember that? Always relate your attitude to the world around you to God first, His work second, you and I come last. Why don’t we get at this again when we get together?
Father God, have your way with us. Oh, help us to relate all our experiences to your great heart of love, in Jesus’ name, amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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