Thriving: The Fruit of Faithfulness
We’ve talked a lot recently about faithfulness, passion, commitment, and sacrificially following the Lord. And there’s no question that this is exactly what God is asking and expecting of each and every one of us. If for no other reason than the God of the universe is asking this of us, we should respond with a resounding “YES” to this call! On top of that, there is the fact that this God has sacrificed for us to free us from the bondage of sin, death, and our own shame and guilt. The gratitude that comes from forgiveness may also compel us to respond in faith and faithfulness to this call.
However, there is even more reason to respond in faith to God’s call. When we do, we experience the fullness of life that Jesus promises us in John 10:10.
But what is this full life, this abundant life? What does it mean to thrive? In simplest terms, it is experiencing the full range of living to the deepest degree possible. That full range of living includes the deep and abiding love that Jesus spoke about to his disciples before he left them to go to the cross. It’s that love that Jesus and the Father have for each other and have invited us all to enter into with them. It includes the joy that Jesus promised when he said his joy will be in you and your joy will be complete (John 15:11).
That thriving life also means feeling deeply all the various emotions that God has given to us as gifts for our own growth and betterment. Sadness to process loss. Pain to alert us to unhealthy things. Anger to have a passion for justice. Guilt and shame to correct us in our sin and lead us to repentance and righteousness. Loneliness to drive us back to relationship with him and others. And fear to remind us of our need for a powerful God, which is the beginning of wisdom.
A thriving life is also a life marked by a deep trust in God, victory in our battles, and arriving in a place of rest in the Lord Jesus.
Do you want that kind of life? Do you want to know beyond knowing that God will carry you through whatever you face? Do you want to live victoriously and overcome the sins, fears, and external challenges in way to run your race well and win the prize? Do you want to leave behind the hurried and harried life of striving and find the rest of Jesus’ easy burden and light yoke? I know I do. That is what awaits us if, and only if, we say yes to the invitation for follow Jesus faithfully.
One last thought before jumping in: following Jesus faithfully does not mean following him perfectly. It means following him with enough trust that, when you fail, you get up and start over again. It means trusting him enough to believe what he says more than what you feel (or more accurately, interpreting your feelings in light of what he says instead of what you have been taught by this world). It means learning to operate out of love and joy instead of obligation, because Jesus says that those who love him will obey him, not that those who try hard enough will obey him. So rather than perfection, living faithfully means living relationally with Jesus by following him wherever he leads, even if it’s scary.
In light of that idea, let’s look at living out a courageous faith.
Invitation to Courageous Faith
Invitation to Courageous Faith
The clear invitation we have been issuing from Nehemiah has been to a courageous faith. Courageous faith means doing things that are scary. It means getting outside of the comfortable places and stepping into harder places. But most of the good things that happen in life are done in the scary and hard places. Not only so, it is what differentiates people who do great things from those who do not.
In the recent movie The Tomorrow War with Chris Pratt, he plays a scientist who wants to do something valuable with his life. He also wants his young daughter to do important things. He tells her, “You have to say to yourself - ‘I am willing to do what no one else is willing to do.’”
What are the things that most people are not willing to do? I think they fall into a few major categories.
Things that feel scary
Things that appear hard
Things that seem mundane/boring
In away, it takes courage to do all three of these. Courage takes trust. We need to believe that the things we do, whether mundane or scary or hard, will be worth it. Will showing up at church week after week make a difference in my life or the life of others? Will having those hard conversations make things better or worse? Can confronting someone actually bring about restoration or repentance? Will admitting my sin bring rejection or forgiveness and love?
Will trusting God with my finances work out for me, or leave me wishing I had been less generous? Will seeking the Lord each day, checking in with a CO2 partner, or practicing joy really make a difference in my life? Will sharing the Gospel make me an outcast or lead to someone’s eternal salvation?
Each of these questions, and more, are answered through faith before they;re answered through experience. You have to be willing to try them before you can prove them.
The same goes with bearing others burdens and pain, confessing your sins to another person, speaking honestly about what you need and what you want, putting Jesus first in your family’s life, and trusting that voice you hear that can’t possibly be the Lord but maybe it is.
Hundreds of thousands of little decisions are made about these things in our lives. The more we bravely answer them in God-honoring ways, we more we experience that fullness of life. Hundreds of choices to do the things that most people, even most Christians, are not willing to do will mean the difference between getting by with a mostly dull and mediocre life and living the greatest adventure known to this world!
Nehemiah found out what happens to people who live courageously for God. They change the course of history. That’s exactly what I want to see happen here in Dedham and the surrounding towns. I want to see a community that is transformed, and it only takes the people who gather in this room or tune in through Zoom to see that happen, but only if we’re willing to live a different kind of life. We’d have to put our personal interests behind the interests of Christ.
That takes courage! Most of us, and I fall into this too, would be all too happy to do our work, come home, and relax with our families every day. But our time is not our own. We are meant to relax, to rest, and to be with family. But we’re also meant to use our working hours, our relaxing hours, and whatever hours there are in between for the glory of God. That means boldly sharing about him with our family, our colleagues, and our neighbors. That means loving radically, by which I mean sometimes putting legitimates needs of others ahead of our comfort (physical, emotional, or otherwise).
If we were all to live like this, what do you think would happen? For starters, you would be more fulfilled. There’s nothing greater in life than living for a purpose higher than yourself, and the Lord’s purpose is the highest possible purpose. Your family would be healthier, because god designed our families to grow and function the best when we orient our lives around the Lord. Our church would be growing, because that kind of living is contagious. People would want to know what it is that we have here. Imagine this room filled with people, all lifting their voices together in worship every Sunday morning. Imagine having multiple hands to do the work, not just on Sunday morning but helping each other in all sorts of ways in our neighborhoods and in each others homes.
Fighting the Battle
Fighting the Battle
When believers live by faith, some aspects of life may get harder. For example, in a war the fiercest battles always come tot he units that are taking ground from the enemy. That’s because those units pose the greatest threats to the enemy. Why would an enemy attack you if you’re not taking ground from them? Why would they attack if you pose no danger to them? But brave soldiers who fight for a great purpose are willing to endure the ire of the enemy because they know that there is no other way for them to win the war.
For example, in WWII, the Germans were able to make pacts with certain