This week, we start off with the life of Edgar Allan Poe. He was a world-famous poet and a literary genius. Despite being “on top of the world,” a series of events led him to despair, drugs, and alcohol. After being found unconscious on the streets of Baltimore, he died 4 days later. The church in Corinth was in danger of following a similar path. When Paul founded their church, they were strong in their faith and understanding of the Gospel. After a few short years, however, the church is letting quarrelling and cultural influences begin to unravel the body.
- Paul’s Introduction (1 Corinthians 1:1-3)
- Our Future with Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:8-9)
All right if you have your bibles this morning let’s open them together 1st Corinthians chapter one. We’re starting a new series and the first four chapters this morning called, A House Divided, meaning God’s house and how to avoid division in it, that’s Paul’s main focus, but don’t worry we’re going to be going through the whole book together. 1st Corinthians chapter one this morning we’re starting with Paul’s greeting in the first nine verses of this fantastic and amazing epistle or letter to this church in Corinth that is going to have I believe lots and lots of timely application for us today. This morning we’re specifically looking at the danger of burning hot and fading quick or starting fast and then fading just as fast. This is what we see the Corinthian church do, they seem to be a vibrant wealthy active church from the words of Paul in these first nine verses, but as soon as we get to verse 10 you realize that something terrible happened.
As I was thinking about the Corinthians this week, I was not only thinking about the American church in our context, I was also reading about this famous poet and literary genius named Edgar Allen Poe, anybody ever heard of him? Right, not only is he known for being this famous poet and fantastic at writing, and had this really unequaled career in his time set, but as fast as he went to the top is as fast as he came tumbling down.
If you remember his story it ended tragically but it started in tragedy as well. At a young age his mom and dad died, but then he received some blessing, a very wealthy family took him in and gave him a very classic and fantastic English education. Would later move to America, go to the University of Virginia. He would enlist in the Army and achieve the highest listed rank. He saw much success, even went to West Point for a time, but in his writing career, in that period he kind of dropped out of West Point, but then his writing career really took off. And amongst his peers, he had no rival. Fast shot to the top, but then his wife died at a young age of tuberculosis and it started this downward spiral that would take his life out of control. He tried to cope with it, alcohol and drugs. Some of you or your families can relate to that. Just like him, it won’t turn out good for you either. It just caused him to spiral even more out of control and eventually took him to the point where he was found unconscious on a street corner in Baltimore, and he died at four days later. This is a classic story of riches to rags. A fall from prosperity to literally poverty, depression, and were his life was even taken from him.
When we turn to the book of 1st Corinthians we see something similar. They had a good start, they had a great foundation. They were literally wealthy. Everything was looking good for only about three or four years, and then the ship started to sink. The thing that they thought they had tightly woven in their faith started unraveling, but unlike Edgar Allen Poe they couldn’t just point to one bad moment. What happened to them is something that can often happen to a church, and it can happen to us, don’t think it can’t. It’s a slow fade. For them, the slow fade was pretty rapid in three or four years. But it can happen to a church in any season if they become apathetic if they become lazy if God’s spiritual truth stop impacting them.
Therefore, I see much correlation between the Corinthian church not in only Edgar Allen Poe’s life but the Corinthian church and the dangers I see of the American church and our prosperous society. What they did, they allowed the society around them to seep into them. It was a pagan society. Now, before you detach yourself from the Corinthian church and say, “Oh that was then 2000 years ago, this is now.” I want you to go home today and watch the news, read the newspaper, look at the internet, talk to people. And though we’re a nation founded on biblical principles in the name of Christ you tell me as you look at the world if we’re not growing in ever more increasingly pagan society. And believe not in God but in man. And this was their big problem, they trust in the wisdom of man over the wisdom of God and at first cause division but it caused a lot of other things.
There’s so many similarities between our church and them 2000 years ago, we’re going to go through them one at a time and one issue at a time. This is what’s fantastic about the book of Corinthians, it’s not like Romans, which is another fantastic book that Paul wrote. It’s not like a systematic theology of salvation, it’s more like a question-answer conversation. The church was struggling, and the one thing that they had was a realization that they were struggling. They’re like, “We know what we’re doing is not what you told us to do, please help us.” And so, they would give him an issue and he would address it, and another issue and he would address it. And another issue and he would address it. It’s a beautiful book because we get to see a myriad of issues addressed by the apostle Paul that we can apply each one if we understand their context to our lives today.
The first similarity that we have with them is that they were prosperous, and whether you want to believe it or not or own it or not, we’re the wealthiest nation that’s ever been. We’re far more monetarily prosperous than our grandparents and their parents before them, it’s just the reality. Now we may not have access to as much money because of debt, but it doesn’t mean the prosperity’s not there and the city of Corinth was wealthy, it was a port city. It was the master of two different ports, one direction you could find yourself in Asia, another direction you could find yourself in Rome and the rest of Italy. So, what did that do? It attracted people. One commentator said it was like the combination of Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles all brought together in one, the culture not the number of people.
Now in one sense that says, okay they’re wealthy they had a lot going on, but in another sense what does it tell you? They weren’t a very moral city either. With all the people and all the religions and all the philosophies what you also had in that city was immorality. Does this not sound like anything that you’re familiar with? Prosperity and immorality all mixed together. In fact, prosperity leading to and supporting immorality. I hope it sounds familiar because that’s the place we live in right now. The Corinthians had every religion, all the philosophies, they even had 20 different places, different religions that they worshiped. Judaism, and paganism, the temple of Aphrodite was there, this is the sex goddess, so, therefore, temple prostitution was there. And all kinds of things that you don’t want to hear about was there, just like you don’t want to think about it in America, but it was there, and because of that and them growing lackadaisical, them growing apathetic it started to seep in.
That’s a little bit of the context. We’re going to get into these first nine verses and you’re going to be like, “Okay wait a second, it doesn’t sound so bad.” What Paul is in his greeting, and what he is doing here in these first nine verses they do sound very positive because they are. Not everything was bad, and not everybody was in desperate sin. But he’s doing a classic what I call, counseling sandwich technique where you start with the good, that’s like the bread and then you get to the tough stuff you need to talk about. This is a good technique with your children by the way, or if you supervise anybody. And then you get to the good stuff again. He tries to end with the good stuff, but I want to tell you, those two slices of bread that are good in the beginning and good at the end they’re pretty thin, and we get nine verses of it.
And then in verse 10 started in chapter one he starts on the meat, it’s like a quadruple meat of attack towards this church. He’s got a lot of meat to talk about, but just like in the burger you get a water burger, the meat’s the good stuff, right? That’s what you want, you want the meat. You don’t want to waste time with the bread, sometimes I even skip the bread, you want the meat. Now, the meat in this story may not always be encouraging to you, it may be convicting to you, but note all along the way though it’s hard to digest, it’s the good stuff. It’s the protein. And don’t worry that other slice of bread’s coming soon as well.
This morning we get that first thin slice of the counseling sandwich, of the good things that Paul saw in this church, but starting verse 10 he’s going to start talking about in the first four chapters division, division, and division, and how it occurred.
Let’s take a trip together in the first nine verses, let’s stand up and just read these verses.
1st Corinthians 1:1 Paul introduces himself, “Paul called an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus,” who is Paul writing to, believers or unbelievers? Believers. You need to know that ’cause when it gets crazy, and you kind of want to just pin it on everything that they’re doing as unbelievers, no, no he’s clear here, isn’t he? He speaks to believers.
He even calls them saints by calling as we continue. “… with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and our’s: Grace to you and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God …” Here’s the good stuff. “… always concerning you for the grace of God which is given you in Jesus Christ; That in everything you are enriched in him, in all speech, in all knowledge; Even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you: So that you also not lacking in any gift; awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
This is God’s word, this is the good stuff. Let’s be seated together. I believe what the good stuff that Paul talks about in these nine verses, there’s also a warning. Here’s the warning, you may recognize it from Proverbs, that pride comes before the fall, so don’t let your prosperity blind you to the dangers that surround you. Whether it be physical prosperity and the money that you have, or spiritual prosperity in the legacy that has been left to you as an American Christian. Don’t let it blind you, don’t take it for granted, because there is evil and danger that surround you. And if you’re not weary of it, it will seep into this place, his church. Not just this building, you are the church, into your heart and to start to slowly eat away at your soul.
Here we have a pretty standard introduction in the first three verses. Paul says, “Grace to you in peace.” This is something that he says in almost all of his letters, you can find it in Romans, you can find it in both of the Corinthians, you can find it in first and second Thessalonians, first and second Timothy, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, all of that. This same greeting is there, and it seems common but let’s hold onto those words, grace, and peace. Grace to you and peace. That word grace is important.
Ephesians two says, “By grace, you have been saved.” I don’t know about you but salvation’s pretty important to me. It seals me for today, the hope that I have now and it seals me for all of eternity. Grace is good, but also peace is that thing that most of us in this world are looking for. But we can only get it through relationship with Jesus Christ. So, they need to be greeted in grace and peace because as believers they need to be reminded of that, and that seems pretty normal.
That’s in verse three, but if you go back to verse one and verse two Paul says some different things in his greeting that I think will help us. Number one, look in verse one, he greets them by telling them that he’s an apostle of Jesus Christ. Yeah, they should know that right? Yes, they should. Paul first came to the Corinthian city in 50 AD, he came while immorality was still there, it was rampant and so was the wealth. But that immorality didn’t stop the power of the gospel because as he came he started teaching and sharing the gospel, what did people do? They started confessing and being saved. And then he started discipling and what happened? Paul established a church there.
So, he establishes this church in Corinth, but now they already knew that was an apostle, what does it say here? I need to remind you again that I’m an apostle. Why do you think Paul did that? Because of the slow fade that he sees. He also knows that as an apostle he’s got to take an opportunity to speak to them in the authority of Jesus Christ, and as he tells them things in the authority of Christ they may not like them. It may offend them. And they’re needing to hold onto the reality that Paul is not speaking just as a friend or a family member. Paul is speaking under the authority of Jesus himself. So when they get offended they need to realize, “Wait a second, it’s not just Paul speaking, Jesus is saying these words guided by his Spirit through the apostolic authority that Paul has.” This is important for them, but church this is important for you.
This is a great point for me to stop and say is, we walk through the book of Corinthians there’s going to be some encouraging stuff, today you shared a lot of these blessings that Paul is talking about. But I promise you, there are verses coming that are going to be convicting. And when you hear me speak them they may even be offensive to you or offend you, that is not my goal. I don’t enjoy offending you, but if it does don’t just look at me and be mad at me, you can that’s fine, realize that what I’m telling you is from the word. This is the holy spirit that told the apostle Paul to say this. This is the spirit of Jesus Christ speaking to you.
What I love is next he puts you in the introduction, look at verse two. He makes it clear that they’re believers so they have no excuse for the nonsense that he sees. But then look what he says, he says, “I’m also writing this to all who in every place call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Who else is that? That’s all of us. What’s interesting, Paul does that here and he doesn’t do it everywhere. I think he knows the issues that he’s going to be dealing with in the Corinthian church are issues that can be in every church. This is you and me that he’s speaking to. So we have to find understanding that we may be walking through, maybe not the exact but very similar circumstances that they are walking through.
We are the church just like they are the church, a unified body of believers who follow Jesus Christ as our Savior and in 2018 there are sadly some similarities between the Corinthian believers and American believers. Number one is the prosperity that we have financially. Number two is the legacy of faith that was established in us, actually much longer even than it was in Corinth. So, we have these blessings.
Here’s the question that I want you to hold onto today and maybe even through the rest of the book. What are you doing with the blessings that God has given you? What are you doing with the prosperity that he’s showered upon you both spiritually and monetarily? Are you wasting it on yourself or are you leveraging it for his glory? Think about your education, for example, you have education today that your grandparents and great-grandparents only dreamed of having. Most of it wasn’t even available to them, yet we have and sometimes we forget or we use it just for ourselves so can make more money. Is that what you’re going to do with the education that you have or are you going to leverage it for the glory of God and the proclamation of the gospel to the ends of the Earth?
What about your wealth? That’s trying to step on your toes because I know money is like the most sensitive subject today. We can talk about abortion no big deal, we can talk about child molestation, okay we can get through that. We can talk about all kinds of things, but when we start talking about money people start getting offended, and I’m sorry about that but that probably means we need to talk about it more. What are you doing with your wealth? Are you just using it to get into more debt, to satisfy yourself? Or again, are you leveraging that wealth like the Corinthians should have? To help people around the world in their poverty, both physical and spiritual, children in need, physical issues that with the American left over money alone we could already have all those issues addressed. It’s crazy what we could do if we leverage what we have for the glory of God. So, what are you going to do with what you’ve been given? God is going to lead you but you must decide to follow.
This is the introduction, we need to move onto verses four through seven. Paul lists five spiritual blessings that he sees in the Corinthian church, that he wants to say this is good in you, I see this in you. And he starts off pretty broad. He starts off with grace. He says, “I thank God always when I think of the grace that you have in your salvation, that’s been shown to you in Jesus Christ.” That’s the second time Paul has mentioned grace, it’s this Greek word charis and it means the unearned and undeserved favor from God shown to you, that cannot be earned by you.
Pastor, what are you saying? I’m saying this, that if it were not for God’s grace and his self-motivated desire to save you, you would have no salvation. What I’m telling you is that salvation starts and ends with God. If it were not for God we would have no hope. It was God’s grace, not something good or deserving that he saw in you, that caused him to send Jesus Christ to this Earth. And when Jesus Christ came to this Earth as a man, living in the flesh, tempted by sin, it was his grace, his unearned favor that caused him to stay the course, to say no to sin, to live a life of perfection, to walk up Calvary as a perfect man to exchange his perfection, and take upon your imperfection when he was your substitute on the cross. He wouldn’t have done that if it weren’t for grace. You didn’t earn it, you didn’t deserve it but he gave it anyway.
It was God’s grace that allowed Jesus Christ to rise from the dead so that if you would repent of the sin that will separate you from God for eternity, and believe what Jesus has accomplished for you, you will be saved. So as we talk about grace for a second … we gotta move on, but would you just pray this week that God would help the understanding of your mind and your heart to grasp grace in such a way that it would fill you with gratitude? That the word grace wouldn’t be casual, but it would blow you away again. It would mean something to you again because that’s what he says they have that is good is grace.
The second thing that he says that is good that we probably also have, it says you’ve been enriched. This word enriched has the word rich in it, and I think that’s great because that’s literally what it means in the Greek language. It means to be made wealthy, or to be made wealthy from the Lord, specifically. Now, this worked two ways in the Corinthian church, they were monetarily wealthy, but more importantly that what Paul’s talking about here, he says that they were spiritually wealthy. He says, “You’ve been enriched in both word and knowledge.” Where did that spiritual richness come from? Yes, it came from God, but who was the vehicle of that? Paul himself. Think about it. The spiritual foundation that was built in this Corinthian church was by the apostle Paul himself. And when he left, Apollos was trained up, his disciple and was sent to the Corinthian church, so they had their faith established through Paul the apostle, you don’t get much better than that. This is a true blessing.
He goes on to say, not only do you have these riches given to you by God both in word and knowledge, but also your faith has been confirmed through your testimony of Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It means that their faith was not a fly by night kind of thing. Paul didn’t just show up and then leave the next day. Paul showed up, shared the gospel, discipled believers, some of those disciples are still there and he said, once I left for a season … it wasn’t a very long season, because they went downhill fast, but for a season the testimony of your faith was confirmed in other people. Other people would look at the Corinthian church, early on, very early on in their initial beginning and saw, that’s a church that is doing what God wants them to do. To me this is a very sad point, it’s encouraging that they had it, but it’s sad for me because they didn’t keep it. Because their testimony, once we get to about verse 10 for 16 chapters is not one were their testimony of Christ as strong, but he says you’ve had that before. And I believe Paul wants to see it again.
The fourth thing that he sees good in this church he says, you’re not lacking in any gift. John Chrysostom the third-century famous preacher, fantastic preacher, we have almost all of his sermons recorded throughout history, he says that what Paul is talking about here are the gifts of the spirit or the spiritual gifts. We see those repeated in 1st Corinthians 12-14. What this means is that these spiritual gifts that God gave them were not lacking in this congregation. Probably that all the gifts that he’s mentioned or will mention in Corinthians he saw in this church, that’s a good thing. But I also believe that this accolade can be used as an attack later, like 1st Corinthians chapter 12. Though they had the gifts, what did they do with them? They misused them, and they abused them. And they started using the gifts that God gave them for their own glory, thus robbing the Father of the glory that he deserves.
Now that’s a great warning for us today before we even get to 1st Corinthians chapter 12. Any gift that you’ve received from God, any blessing that you’ve received was not meant for you alone. It was meant to bring glory to God, and for the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The very moment that you take a spiritual gift and you start using it to benefit yourself, so you receive the fame, and so you receive the glory, we’re going to get into this I see this a lot in spiritual gifts. You need to own what you’re doing. You’re robbing God of the glory that he deserves. I believe that’s a serious accusation. So yes, they have the spiritual gifts but they also misuse them.
Finally here the fifth thing that Paul said, the positive thing that Paul says towards the Corinthians in verse seven, it can be easily missed. He says, that you eagerly await the revelation of Jesus Christ. Not only in the teaching that they are given, but I believe what Paul is making reference here is this good thing that he sees in them that they are on pins and needles at least in some measure awaiting the second coming of our Lord. 2000 years ago churches were on the edge of their seat going, “When’s Jesus coming back? When’s Jesus coming back? I want to be ready for when Jesus comes back.” Church, we should be doing the same thing today. And I promise you, we’re a lot closer to that day when he returns now then they were then. But did it last in the Corinthian churches I guess in the question? They were eager in their revelation of Jesus Christ, but did it last? I don’t think so. Look at an overview of the rest of the book and you tell me if you think that they stayed ready for the return of Jesus.
In the first four chapters, Paul address division, because they were focusing on man’s wisdom instead of God’s wisdom. Then he starts in chapter five talking about sexual morality and how the church was in the habit of suing each other. Does that sound like a church that’s eagerly anticipating the return of Jesus, that he would find them suing each other and in sexual morality? Is that how you want Jesus to find you? No. They weren’t ready for his return, he talks about that in chapters five and six.
Finally, not finally, in chapter seven through 10, they lost their understanding of the marriage covenant. They didn’t understand the importance of being single, and they didn’t understand the danger of divorce. They struggled in trying to look after the weaker brother and sister in Christ, and Paul addresses these things in 1st Corinthians seven through 10. Then they started using the Lord’s suffer as a way to segregate the congregation in social status, rather than to bring unity in the congregation. They misused the gifts of the spirit, and they didn’t really understand love. So he addresses it in 1st Corinthians 11-14. Some of them even started to doubt the reality of the power of the resurrection. He spends a whole chapter, 1st Corinthians 15, talking about that. And in 1st Corinthians 16, he says, some of you won’t even sit in the same room together, meaning you won’t even look each other in the eye, in the church of Christ. And he addresses that in the last chapter. Does this sound like a church that is staying ready for the return of Christ? No, it’s a praise that they were eager, but I believe they lost their eagerness.
Church, Jesus is coming back. I want you to stay ready for his return. One way that I believe I can help you do that, this question that I ask myself is this, what will Jesus find me doing if he returns today? How will I be using my life and leveraging it for his glory? What will he find me doing if he came back right now? Would he find our church in division or in unity? Would he find your heart given into sexual immorality or gospel purity? Would he find you in your marriage, in a sexual relationship outside of your marriage or staying faithful to your spouse? We could go on and on and on, couldn’t we? I think it’s a great question ’cause the reality is Jesus could come back today, and I want to be ready for that. I don’t want to have anything in my life where he’d look at me and be like, “That’s not what I want to see.” Realizing that it could come anytime I believe will help you.
He talks about some good things in verses four through seven, basically that they were Christians. I think these are pretty standard things to all believers, but look at what he does in verses eight and nine. Because of their faith in Christ that had been confirmed, he says you have two guarantees. Guarantee number one is a future with Jesus, now this is going to be good for you if you’ve fallen off track at all. You have a future with Jesus. Guarantee number two, God will be faithful to you. I’m not saying it’ll always be comforting for you, but he’ll always be faithful to you. No matter who bad the Corinthians were, no matter how many consequences they had to face because of their sin, the true believers in the church of Corinth had this guarantee that eternity was waiting for them.
What does that mean for you today? It means that at some point in your life you’re going to blow it. At some point in your life, you’re going to fall into a sin, and it may be like the Corinthian’s sin, it may be pride, it may be apathy, it may be sexual immorality, it may be division. When you find yourself there don’t let it cause you to fall into a deep depression that you can’t recover from. Don’t make it cause you to want to give up in your Christianity. See it for what it is. Strain off track, let God show it to you and get back on track. And no matter what happens that sin that enters your life, if you’re a true follower of Jesus Christ it cannot keep you from eternity. Now I’m not telling you this to give you a license to sin, Paul says that’s nonsense. I’m telling you this so you’ll be overwhelmed by the reality that God loves you despite you. And it would draw you back to him instead of drawing you away from him.
And in verse nine he says, “God is faithful.” Not only will you have an eternal home to go to, but you have an eternal father that you can always turn to today. That means your relationship with Jesus Christ will never be severed forever. You can mess it up royally, and if you’re a believer he’ll always be there waiting for you. Now, it could be damaged, but through repentance, it can be restored at any moment if you would just turn back to him. Yes church, sin is serious, and if you’re not a believer that sin will separate you from God for all of eternity, but for the believer sin cannot and will not separate you from the eternal love of God, or the relationship you have with Jesus Christ, that’s what Paul says in Romans 8.
When he finishes here he says, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor death, or any other created thing will be able to separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Church, God is faithful. Sin will not destroy those who’ve been saved by the blood of Jesus. Look at me for a second, but sin can destroy the testimony of the church. Sin can destroy your testimony as a believer. So as we see the prosperity, the spiritual blessings that they had, yet in mind of all that they did wrong in these next 16 chapters, what I want to do is express a little warning to you in love, and here it is. Please take the silver spoon out of your American mouth. What do I mean by that? Don’t let the blessings that have been bestowed to you blind you to the dangers that surround you. Just because you’ve been given much prosperity and a firm foundation it does not mean that just because God has allowed you to start well, it doesn’t mean you will finish well on your own. Just because your parents brought you to church every Sunday and every time the doors were opened, doesn’t mean that on your own you will finish well unless you turn to Christ. You must own your faith on your own, and you must hold onto it on your own. You must never think, “Ahh I’ve arrived in this thing called Christianity.” Your faith is a marathon, it’s not a sprint.
I have no desire to see somebody convicted last week by a marriage message and say, “Oh yeah, I’m going to make deposits,” and they do it on Sunday, and then make no more deposits the rest of the week. No, no. Your faith in Christ, your marriage, parenting, all of it’s a marathon. And in fact, it’s not just your ordinary marathon, it’s like 26.2 miles, right? A physical marathon. That’s a long way. I look at Christianity like something called an ultra marathon. Anybody ever heard of ultra marathon? Nobody’s ever heard? Okay, this is a marathon … yeah you do those Mike, don’t you? Not yet, okay. A normal marathon’s about 26.2 miles, an ultra marathon starts at 100 miles and can go up to 500 miles. You cannot fake a regular marathon, but you surely cannot fake your way through an ultra marathon. It takes real endurance. That’s how I want you to look at your Christianity, so you don’t fall into the traps like the Corinthian church did.
There’s this ultra marathon that I was reminded of this week, it occurred in 1983. It was from two points in Australia that you don’t know any, so I won’t tell you the cities, but needless to say, it was 544 miles long. At the time in 1983, it was the longest and most grueling race that you could run as a human. Can you imagine running 544 miles? The people that run this race are in shape, okay. The people that run this race are sponsored, that means they come to the starting line in those little shorts all chiseled up with like Nike on there. They got some names on their back because these are people paying them to run. These are the kind of crazy people that do ultra marathons. But in 1983 the whole crowd was in shock and awe as they watched a potato farmer walk to the sign-up desk in rubber boots and overalls. At 61 years old he walked up to the registration desk says, “I want to run the race.” Most people thought he was joking, and so they saw him pay his money and put the number 61 on his chest.
And then everybody else was worried. Why? Because they thought, this guy’s going to die out here. This ain’t no joke, 544 miles, you can’t just walk out there and do that. Everybody goes up to the starting line, everybody else is sponsored. He shows up in rubber boots and overalls. The starting gun goes, bing and the race starts. Guess what happened. They left him in the dust. These chiseled athletes ran by him and they laughed at him because he was doing something like this, a little shuffle. Everybody else was long strides. I can’t do that my knees a little weak today. They’re long striding out there, and they’re taking off, and within five minutes the rest of the group they couldn’t even see poor Cliff Young was his name, but he just kept running. Days and days and hours and hours went by.
Five days, 14 hours and 4 minutes guess who came across the finish line? Cliff Young did. And you almost want to like stand up in applause because he finished, but it didn’t stop there. He not only finished the race church, he won the race. He broke the record by two days. The closest person to Cliff Young in his rubber boots and overalls was nine hours behind him. What? How did it even happen? What he did, was he didn’t listen to everybody else.
Everybody else would run for about 18 hours … I can’t even imagine that hard as they could and then they would sleep for six, and eat, and rest, and get up in the morning, run 18 and they would do this for days and days. Run 18, sleep six. Nobody taught Cliff Young that. What’d he do? He just kept shuffling. He would eat and drink and sleep a little bit, but he just had that what would be known by professional runners who actually use his technique is known as the Young Shuffle, and he beat everybody else. Why? Because as they were stopping, as they were resting he was enduring. I tell you that story to tell you this, I want you to approach your Christian life with the warning of 1st Corinthians 1:1-9 with a Cliff Young kind of shuffle approach. Just keep going. Everything in your Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint.
We mentioned marriage last week. Marriage if you haven’t realized it is not easy. It’s not meant to be easy. The Bible never says it’s going to be all sunshine and rainbows, it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon. So, those deposits I was talking about last week need to be made every day for as long as you’re married. Committed to each other in the name of Jesus Christ, proclaiming the gospel to the world.
What about other things in your life? What about parenting? Is parenting easy? If you’re a parent in here today and you think it’s easy just please let me know after the service I want to know what you’re doing. Parenting is not only a marathon, I think it’s like an ultra marathon. See, most people think, oh parenting’s over at 18. How many of you in here today have adult children? Does it end at 18? Not even close. It’s an ultra marathon, you just keep pouring, and pouring and they keep taking and taking. You can’t give up, you can’t give in, you have to parent their whole life long, probably your whole life long.
What about your church attendance? What about your church service? What about your prayer time? What about your Bible study? You starting to notice a theme? Marathon. I don’t want you just to pray on Sunday when you come together, God wants you to pray without ceasing. You don’t just read your Bible on Sunday when we read the passage of scripture together, that’s not going to cut it. That would be like eating once a week. How many of you eat once a week and then starve the rest of the week? No, you eat every day. You need to consume God’s word. Maybe you get you started on something here, but then you need to keep reading it the rest of the week. You need to take fuel in. If you only ate once in an ultra marathon you would die. If you only took one drink in an ultra marathon, you would die. So, don’t approach your marathon of Christianity like that.
You need to be consuming God’s word, praying every day. Let me help you. To be nourished you need to be in a life group or a Bible study. You need to take what God’s feeding you now and digest it then because Christianity is not just meant to feed you one day a week, that’s nuts. Not a good thought. You’re meant to be fed, why? So that you can feed others. If you’ve consumed nothing you have nothing to give. You cannot take other people to places that you’ve never been. Your children or anybody else. So, take this Cliff Young Shuffle approach to Christianity, and I’m praying as we walk through this book issue by issue you won’t fall into the same pitfalls and traps that the Corinthian church did.