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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.30 am service, 2004-08-15

Text: 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10

For the past 6 Sundays we have been considering the theme 'Serving in the Kingdom of Christ.' By now we should already have some knowledge on what the Bible says about service - we have seen that service to the Lord is not an option but a requirement for all who are followers of Christ. But that does not make our service to Him like National Service, which most people regard as a matter of duty. We should regard serving God as a great and awesome privilege, and count it a joy to serve Him!

And that may sound quite easy to do. After all, serving God does not require us to be confined to military barracks most of the time, and go through much strenuous physical training and mental stress, under austere conditions, bashing through dense forests while wearing 'full battle order,' and facing plenty of physical dangers. To some of us who have endured the tough and intense training in NS, but who have not been involved in serving Christ in His kingdom yet, service in the Lord's kingdom may seem to be relatively light and easy. And so, it should not be difficult at all to serve the Lord willingly and joyfully all the time. 

Why then are not more people serving in Christ's kingdom? What difficulties hardness or suffering is there in such service? Well, first we need to understand that the goals in God's service are different from the goals of any other kind of service. It requires us to give our time and effort for spiritual goals. It does not bring any recognition, honour or glory as defined by the world. These are the goals that men would gladly serve with all their might and enthusiasm to attain. Serving the Lord will not bring you any worldly gains at all. 

In fact it sometimes brings scorn, ridicule, opposition and even hostility from the world (John 15:19 'If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.'). That makes it quite unattractive to those who crave for popularity and for worldly gains.

Secondly, service in Christ's kingdom requires a different kind of strength from other service. It does not require much by way of physical or mental strength. The strength that it requires is that of patient continuance (Hebrews 10:36 'For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.' Cf. Romans 2:7). One has to keep on serving the Lord regularly, faithfully and consistently, without giving up or slackening, even when there seems to be little or no results. One has to persevere in serving, even when everyone else has dropped out of the race.

Thirdly, service in Christ kingdom faces challenges that are quite different from any other kind of service. In other kinds of service, the challenges are often visible. They can be easily identified and dealt with. But this is not so in the Lord's service. Ephesians 6:12 tells us, 'For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.' The enemy that hinders our service to God is an unseen enemy. And he is very skilled in sowing seeds of discord and disharmony among us, and in bringing discouragement to stop our service.

Now, having seen the different goals of God's service, the different kind of strength it requires and the different challenges faced in it, I hope that you can now understand why serving in the Lord's kingdom is not easy. And to serve joyfully at all times, regarding your service not as a duty but as a privilege, can indeed be quite difficult. And yet this is the service that is now required of all of us who belong to Christ. 

One hymnwriter expressed the very same thoughts with these words:'So send I you to labour unrewarded, to serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown, to bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing - So send I you to toil for Me alone. So send I you to bind the bruised and broken, o'er wandering souls to work, to weep, to wake, To bear the burdens of a world aweary - So send I you to suffer for My sake.'

In order to serve in Christ's Kingdom well, what we need therefore is sufficient personal motivation. It is good for us now to focus our thoughts on this subject of motivation, in the context of our service to God. A good motivation or driving force, as some would call it, enables one to accomplish much for the Lord. It will also help to keep us from spiritual stagnation. We would all do well to seek good motivation for our service to the Lord.

The question is: How do we get this motivation? How can we overcome the sense of inertia that prevents us from attaining our spiritual goals, and from giving our fullest and best service in the kingdom of Christ? How do we maintain a steady, consistent pace of service despite the dangers, difficulties, discomforts and discouragements we face? 

This morning I would like to suggest to you that there are some principles we can learn from the life of the apostle Paul that can help us. Paul's life was truly a highly motivated life. This can be seen quite clearly in his life's story, according to the Book of Acts, as well as in his epistles. 

In his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul, under inspiration of God wrote many things about his own life, particularly about his service as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Here in this letter, we have a wonderful view into the life of a man who served God successfully and consistently with his whole life. Here are revealed the things which motivated Paul's life. And three of them are found in the passage of Scripture that we read. They reveal three things that we ought to do if we want to be powerfully motivated in the Lord's service. Let us consider each one: The first thing we ought to do is to

I. Consider constantly the great magnitude of the coming glory.

In v.17 we read, 'For our light affliction which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.' Here, there are two things which are being compared with each other: One has to do with our present circumstances, the other has to do with our future gain. The contrast between the two of them is immense! On the one hand, the life that we now have is 'full of affliction.' Our bodies are gradually decaying. 

On the other hand our future life is 'full of glory.' And this glory is of such great magnitude that it is described here as being a weight of glory. This is in direct contrast to our affliction which is described as being light. Paul's use of terms of measure is significant. It is meant to impress upon our minds the vast greatness and abundance of the future blissful life. Compared to this, our present afflicted life is only a small tiny little portion.

And we are amazed that of all people, it is Paul who describes the present life's afflictions as being light. His afflictions were by no means light! In chapter 11 of the same epistle he describes how he was frequently imprisoned, given the punishment of 39 stripes 5 times, beaten with rods 3 times, he was stoned, shipwrecked, in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of his own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

Yet all of these things together constitute what Paul was pleased to call 'Light afflictions'! If Paul's afflictions are considered to be light, what would ours be? Nevertheless if Paul, who had such a life saw his future glory as being enormous enough to make his great afflictions pale into insignificance, how much more immense must this glory be to our minds!

Furthermore, in the same verse (v.17) the glory to come is described as being eternal, whereas the present affliction is said to last for only a moment. In v.18, the same time comparison is given, and the inference here is that we ought to be more concerned about our welfare in the long future eternity than for our welfare in our brief, present reality.

But difficulties do tend to distort our sense of time. To those who are going through a time of intense suffering, one day might seem as long as one whole year. Dreary experiences seem to cause time to drag its weary feet. When Paul wrote this epistle to the Corinthians, he was only about halfway though his rigorous seventeen-year ministry. The Corinthians who received this epistle would have been well aware of the long and weary dealings that Paul had had with them. Of all the churches, they were the church that had caused Paul numerous problems and heartaches in his ministry. Over a period of five years, Paul had to visit them at least 3 times during his journeys, as well as to write at least 4 letters to them (only two are preserved for us in the scriptures).

And yet in spite of all that Paul had gone through for them, he regarded these weary afflictions as lasting for only a very short while, only a moment. He was able to do this because he had set his spiritual sights upon the tremendously great magnitude and duration of the glory which is to come.

We can therefore be similarly motivated whenever we are in the midst of a long trial that does not seem to end. It is, after all, only lasting for a moment of time when compared with the vast eternity ahead. This is like getting oneself immunised against diseases like Hepatitis B, chickenpox and Influenza. Sometimes the immunization involves taking a series of two or three injections over a number of months. But after that the person is immune to the disease for life. Now, I don't think any of us here relish the thought of having injections, because they are inconvenient and painful, but for the sake of a lifetime protection from suffering a dreaded disease, we do not mind taking them at all. Even though injections may be painful, they are only short, momentary afflictions, working for us the lifelong bliss of protection from a dreaded illness.

This is the way that we ought to consider our present circumstances if we want to be motivated in the same way that Paul was: By considering the immense magnitude of the coming glory: a consideration of things which are yet to be seen, but which are no less real than our present apparent reality. The way to do this is by faith By faith we can behold glorious things that are yet to come. 

Let us now consider the second point: The second thing that we ought to do if we want to be motivated for ministry is to:

II. Desire earnestly the great deliverance from our present mortality.

We read in chapter 5, verse 2: 'For in this we groan, desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.' Like Paul we should earnestly desire this deliverance. Then, even if we do burn ourselves out fully in the Lord's service, even to the extent of death, we will stand to gain the wonderful dwelling that awaits us. Such a comforting expectation more than makes up for the many apparent losses we may have to endure at present. Our souls will be fully satisfied with this better dwelling place, made by God Himself.

Perhaps you can think of it as a man who has been living all his life in an old shack. One day because of a death of a very rich relative, this man is providentially given free possession of a very spacious and well-furnished new penthouse apartment. As he waits to move out of his old shack, he eagerly anticipates the comforts and conveniences of his new home. Can you imagine how he feels? Can you imagine the excitement of knowing that he will enter it soon?

We can be greatly motivated by such anticipation too. The state in which we will dwell in heaven will have none of the frustrating constraints and limitations that our bodies now impose on us. It will not be prone to weariness, tiredness, and the sicknesses which burden us now. It will not be affected by allergies, ulcers, back pains, short-sightedness, coughs, colds and headaches that are so much a part of our present lives. It will not grow old and out of shape, nor will it ever need to come under the surgeon's knife. Doctors, surgeons and dentists will be out of a job in heaven!

Do you look forward to this? Every true believer in Christ does. This is because God has already given each one of us a foretaste of what it will be like. When was this foretaste given? It has been ours since the time when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us. This foretaste of heaven is what scripture calls the 'earnest' of the Holy Spirit, mentioned in v.5 of our text. The word 'earnest' here means down-payment. In other words the Holy Spirit is the first installment of our heavenly inheritance. He is given so that we might anticipate joyfully the rest of the inheritance to come. 

How is it that the Holy Spirit is a foretaste of heavenly bliss? The Holy Spirit makes a portion of the love, joy, and peace of heaven, a part of our daily experience now. These become manifested when we walk in the Spirit, as our lives are filled with the Spirit. Such love, inward joy and peace anticipates the Greater Bliss to come: and that is, the full measure of our heavenly experience!

Some Christians are perhaps fearful about serving the Lord in the fullest capacity because of what it will cost them physically, wearing out their bodies. But the motivation of our heavenly expectations removes that fear. We no longer need to be afraid to burn ourselves out for the Lord the same way that Paul did.

David Livingstone was an English missionary who served God by pioneering the outreach of the gospel into Africa in the 19th century. He traversed the whole continent on foot. He also sustained and survived the onslaughts of many diseases. His body became permanently deformed when he was mauled by a man-eating lion early in his missionary travels. After thirty-two years of being thus worn down and physically eroded, Livingstone died in sickness, while kneeling in prayer. He wrote in his journal: 'I place no value on anything I have or may possess, except in relation to the kingdom of Christ. If anything will advance the interests of the kingdom, it shall be given away or kept, only as by giving or keeping it I shall most promote the glory of Him to whom I owe all my hopes in time and eternity.'

Let us be similarly motivated, earnestly desiring the great deliverance from our mortality. Rather than pitying ourselves when we suffer physical setbacks, we should accept it, knowing that deliverance is forthcoming, and press on to serve the Lord. We must focus our minds on the immortal, heavenly inheritance. Meditate upon it in our devotions until our hearts long for it more earnestly and fervently. Then like, Paul, we would not be too greatly concerned about the physical afflictions we have to face here.

Thus far we have seen two things that can motivate us in our service to God: Considering constantly the great magnitude of the coming glory, and Desiring earnestly the great deliverance from our mortality. Now we come to the third thing that can motivate us, and it is found in v.9 of our text, which reads, 'wherefore we labour, that whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.' 

III. Look forward to the great joy we will have in seeing the Lord, if we are faithful.

The motivation is the JOY of being accepted by the Lord. The word 'accepted' here really means well-pleasing. The context of this being well-pleasing is the occasion of being right in the holy presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in heaven. Just imagine having the unspeakable joy of beholding the loving look of approval on our Saviour's face when we finally present the fruits of our service to Him. Surely this acceptance will dispel all the tiredness and weariness of lives that have been spent in service for Him! This blessed encounter with Christ smiling with welcome arms of divine fellowship will definitely be the crowning moment of our lives in eternity! What a moment to look forward to! What a powerful motivation this is for us to serve Him well now, sparing nothing in our efforts.

Knowing therefore that we will be rewarded according to our labours at the judgment seat of Christ, we must be willing to serve Him well now, for the better our present service the better will our future joy be in His presence. The way we live our lives now can affect the intensity of the joy that we will experience when we meet with our Saviour.

Some of us may have had the pleasant experience when we were students, of bringing home a good report card to show to our parents. Do you recall being overjoyed at the look of approval on their faces when they saw the good grades you had obtained? This joy is reward enough for us even without any material rewards added. But what if your results were not very good? 

What if you could only show them borderline passes and red marks for some subjects? Then your joy of showing the report card to them would be greatly reduced. How much approval can you expect if you did not put in much effort?

Similarly, how much approval can we expect from our Lord Jesus Christ if we do not make full use of the present time now to bear fruit for Him? Let this therefore be an added motivation for our service to God. Let this be an incentive for us to be involved in service in Life Church now, knowing that there are many things to be done here for the Lord.

There are many more things that motivated Paul's life beside the three things we have seen this morning. But for today let us learn to apply these three things: Firstly, consider the great magnitude of the coming glory. Secondly, desire the great deliverance from our present mortality, and thirdly, look forward to the great joy we will have in seeing the Lord, if we are faithful. 

Finally let us pray that by the right use of these great motivations we may one day be able to say, like Paul in the midst of our service, 'We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed, we are perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.'

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25