Stop Preaching, Start Doing
Your example, beloved, is the best sermon you can preach.
Alright, thank you very much and hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Aren’t you glad you can be in the world but not of it? That’s the background for that little corny greeting as you know. Thank God that He keeps us even though we live in a world that’s filled with all sorts of sin and troubles yet God keeps us and makes us a blessing. In the world but not of it. Jesus our Blessed Lord prayed, “I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil.”
And Peter the apostle wrote, “You who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” So as you look heavenward to your blessed Lord and walk step by step in His control, God keeps you in the world and makes you a blessing. Thank God that’s so. I trust everything’s going well at your house.
I’d like to refer you, if I may, to Romans 14 and we’ll just finish up our thought on this word “edify” as found in the 19th verse, “Things wherewith one may edify another.” Now, he says, “pursue the things which make for peace and pursue the things that will build somebody else up.” This word “edify” Greek word “oikodomêo” which means “build a house,” “build up.” And so the idea of building a person’s life is involved here. The last time we got together, I mentioned to you that the beginning point, the most effective beginning point if you want to edify someone else is to have a radiant Christian life yourself. Encouraging other people oftentimes is nothing more nor less than a byproduct of your own radiant, victorious, Christian life.
Following that line of thought, it follows that if someone needs encouraging and prayer, you can be of help in building them up in their prayer life not by lecturing them to pray more but by praying with them. If somebody is weak in Bible study and doesn’t quite know how to get the Word of God open into heart and mind and life, you can be of help by saying, “Come on, let me just be with you for a little while as we look into this passage.” And then think out loud to the person as to what God is saying to your heart and share that.
You’d be surprised at the warmth that will come into somebody else’s heart as you share some precious portion from the Word of God. Some people who were total strangers to me came into my office one day not too long ago just to say hello and get acquainted. They were representing another Christian organization that happened to be visiting on campus at that moment. And so they came in. I said, “Well, sit down and tell me about your work.” And they did. And so then it was time for them to go and before they left, I said, “Well, let’s have just a word of prayer together and before we do I want to share with you something I got from the Word today. I was working in it so that I could give it on the radio and let me just spill it over to you.”
And so I opened up to them just for a couple of minutes something the Lord had said preciously to my own heart that very morning. And then I said, “Well, let’s pray.” So I prayed with them. And when I said “Amen,” I looked up and there were tears in these people’s eyes. I thought what now? What in the world did I do? And one of the men said, “I’m so glad you did that.” Now, this is what I’m talking about.
You will warm people’s hearts and bless them and help to build them up if you will share with them the good things God is giving you from His Word. Not everybody is as adept at opening the Word of God, let us say, as you are. You open a given chapter and it talks to you because you’ve been living in God’s Word for some years and so you know some of the things that the Lord may say to you from that passage. Somebody else looks at the same passage of scripture and they’re blank. They don’t have any what my old theology professor at Eastern used to call “interpreting background of mind.” I remember Dr. Champion. He was one of my favorite profs in my salad days when I was going to seminary and he would scratch his baldpate and he would say, “Aah, you fellows don’t have any interpreting background of mind, that’s why you don’t understand.”
Oh, a precious man, he was but he has a good point there. You see any given set of data, you perceive any given situation based on what you already have in your mind. So with your background in the Word of God, you can be of help to somebody else. Do you follow me on that? “Pursue,” said he, “things wherewith one may edify another.” You can build people up in the Word of God simply by sharing with them the blessings of God’s Word that have come to your heart within minutes or hours.
Don’t give them something stale and scratched up from the bottom of the barrel. Stale bread is always identifiable. It’s pretty hard to take stale bread and make it taste fresh and the same thing is true from old moldy things from your memory in the Word of God. Give them something fresh, right? How do you edify a person? Well, now this is just in the area of common sense. Many a person is weak in his Christian life because he thinks nobody understands and nobody cares. And so he or she goes stumbling along, oftentimes failing, oftentimes feeling like giving up.
You can help a person oftentimes just by spending some time with him. The Navigators, a Christian organization, with headquarters in Colorado have, as one of the trademarks of their approach to Christian work, the phrase “Spend time with.” They advise their people to find someone who can be their Timothy and then spend time with him or her, that is to say regularly set aside a block of time when you will fellowship with that person, you will open the Word of God with him or her, you’ll pray with the person, you will be with them just to give yourself to them.
All of us feel a little defensive when somebody is out to teach us something or to lecture us. But if somebody says, “I’d like to be with you for a little while just so we can enjoy some fellowship together, you feel a little different because you’re not threatened, you’re not going to be accused of anything or you’re not going to be lectured about anything; you’re just going to enjoy the other person’s presence, isn’t that true? I have one or two people who always announce themselves when they come in to my office.
They will say with a smile, “I don’t want anything.” Now, you know, because a lot of folk who come into my office do want something. That’s the nature of the job. If they didn’t have any needs, I wouldn’t need to be there, would I? Never complain about the challenges of your job because if they weren’t there, you wouldn’t be either, right? So I’m not complaining. But sometimes, one or two people whom I know will stand in the doorway, smile and say, “I don’t want anything. Just wanted to see you and say hello.” Well, now, that’s nice, isn’t it? And I enjoy it. Indeed, I do.
You can strengthen another person by being a radiant Christian, by praying with them, by reading and studying the Word of God with them and then to cap it all off, to give yourself to them in an investment of the most precious commodity there is, your time and yourself. Would you remember that? If you and I are too busy to spend a little time with people in giving ourselves to them for the sake of our Lord or for the sake of encouraging them. Well, then, maybe we are too busy. I have told you, I guess, a year or two ago, the encouragement that I’ve received when I was a student at Wheaton College.
As student pastor, I would preach 5 and 6 and sometimes 7 times on a Sunday in different places and Sunday night, I would go to bed completely exhausted but Monday morning was sure to arrive and I had an 8 o’clock Greek class. Well, you know, oftentimes I would find myself saying, “Oh, boy should I plan to be sick this morning and not to go class?” Well, you can’t do that. You have to get up; you have to go to class. But I must say that as I plodded on my way to class, I was not always that enthusiastic about going to classical Greek.
You people who’ve read “Anabasis”, Xenophon’s “Anabasis”, you know that the [Greek words here] are in there. Then they moved so and so many states of distance and all of that. And I was not really thrilled about it and oftentimes I was discouraged because I was tired and I was just about that time, I would meet at a certain corner of the campus a man who was on his way to catch the train to go into Chicago where he was a student at the Moody Bible Institute. He had sold his farm in Wisconsin at age, I think he was 38 or 39 at the time, sold his farm, moved his entire family to Wheaton, gotten some employment or other that kept him with bread on the table.
And then in between all of that, he was also attending classes, went on from the institute to seminary, finished seminary, built a church out on the Westside of suburban Chicago and ministered for years successfully. That’s the whole story. But I saw him during those days when he was still in school. Here was a grown man, now in his 40’s, on his way to school in the morning just like I was, and invariably when he saw me, he would smile, put his strong farmer’s hand on my shoulder, and give me a few words of encouragement. Walter Reed was his name.
I’ll always remember that man. I felt better, I felt better able to face the day, I felt like going on and amounting to something after I had met my friend. And he stopped for a moment and just gave me the full effect, let us say, of his warm, compassionate heart, encouraging a young man to keep on with God. Oh, I’m grateful. You know, you can do that. You can do that. He says, “Pursue the things that edify.” Build up other people and sometimes you can build another person up just by giving yourself to him or her in complete attention and compassion and concern even though it’d be for a moment, all right?
“Things wherewith one may edify another.” Always remember that your example is the greatest sermon you can preach. Back in the days when my own two older girls were teenagers, they were active in Youth for Christ and in the Bible quiz teams that we had going at that time. This was a highly competitive activity based on knowing the books of the Bible on which questions were asked. They memorized the passages. They memorized the answers to every conceivable question that could be asked about those passages. And then the rest of the contest had to do with ability to stand quickly to be the first one to stand up when the question was asked.
Well, the upshot of the matter was that here was a troubled teenager at the back of the tabernacle one day who saw these kids quizzing and she knew one of my daughters and she said, “If Marilyn can do it, I can, too.” And she went to work with her Bible and became not only an outstanding quizzer, but an outstanding little Christian. Your example, beloved, is the best sermon you can preach.
Dear Father today, help us to be a good example to others, 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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