ARE WE WILLING TO TAKE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE POSITION WE SEEK?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
16 OCTOBER 1994
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Do you remember our discussion about the way we hear three inner voices: that of the Holy Spirit, that of the devil, and that of our own imaginings?
Well, our discussion today on seeking positions of responsibility, and our willingness to accept the responsibility involved, really centers around what voice we hear.
This is a training process each of us must go through.
I cannot hear those inner voices you hear any more than you can hear those that I hear.
But what we can do mutually, however, is learn to distinguish these various inner voices.
In our preparation verses for this morning, Colossians 1:21-23, we have an example of this learning process.
21. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds,
Hostile in mind; what does it mean?
It means that we are hostile to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit.
It means we knowingly reject His voice in favor of another voice.
Thus we become alienated to God and engage ourselves in evil deeds.
22. yet He [Jesus Christ] has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach--
How, and why?
Because we started listening, really listening, and willingly joined ourselves to the will of God.
But this reconciliation comes with responsibility.
23. if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.
The "if" that began the verse means that there are conditions to our reconciliation with Jesus Christ.
It's just a gift without conditions to remain steadfast in our faith.
In other words, we haven't gone back to listening to the wrong voices again; we have taken the responsibility for the position we sought: that of Christian.
Last week we read another thing that Paul said that reflects upon listening to the right voice and accepting the responsibility: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
24. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
Paul speaks of our journey to heaven as if we were competing in a game.
But this "game," if we can call it that, is for keeps.
If we win, we go to heaven.
If we lose, we go to hell.
25. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
26. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;
27. but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
Paul buffets himself, or fights against those other voices that desire to lead him astray, the voices that can sound very enticing at times.
He does this because he has accepted the responsibility of his position of minister.
The nation of Israel went astray because the ministers and leaders failed in their responsibility.
Ezra, who had become reconciled to God, was a priest of the period of the return from captivity in Babylon; he took the responsibility of listening to the correct voice.
Other priests with him did the same, as we are told in Ezra 8:24-34.
24. Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and with them ten of their brothers;
25. and I weighed out to them the silver, the gold, and the utensils, the offering for the house of our God which the king and his counselors and his princes, and all Israel present there, had offered.
26. Thus I weighed into their hands 650 talents of silver, and silver utensils worth 100 talents, and 100 gold talents,
27. and 20 gold bowls, worth 1,000 darics; and two utensils of fine shiny bronze, precious as gold.
That's a lot of responsibility!
For by today's standards, this is worth nearly $60,000,000.00.
28. Then I said to them, "You are holy to the Lord, and the utensils are holy; and the silver and the gold are a freewill offering to the Lord God of your fathers.
29. "Watch and keep them until you weigh them before the leading priests, the Levites, and the heads of the fathers' households of Israel at Jerusalem, in the chambers of the house of the Lord."
30. So the priests and the Levites accepted the weighed out silver and gold and the utensils, to bring them to Jerusalem to the house of our God.
31. Then we journeyed from the river Ahava on the twelfth of the first month to go to Jerusalem; and the hand of our God was over us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and the ambushes by the way.
32. Thus we came to Jerusalem and remained there three days.
33. And on the fourth day the silver and the gold and the utensils were weighed out in the house of our God into the hand of Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest, and with him was Eleazar the son of Phinehas; and with them were the Levites, Jozabad the son of Jeshua and Noadiah the son of Binnui.
34. Everything was numbered and weighed, and all the weight was recorded at that time.
Can you imagine the bad witness it would have been if they failed in their responsibility?
People think, “If you can't trust a servant of God, who can you trust?”
Does this also give you some idea of what is wrong with our society today?
Our Scripture reading for this morning, Mark 10:35-45, is another example:
35. And James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Him, saying to Him, "Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You."
The apostles James and John come to Jesus asking Him to grant their request without first telling Him what they want.
In Matthew's account, 20:20 and following, it tells us that their mother made the request for them.
20. Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Him with her sons, bowing down, and making a request of Him.
This is a tactic often used by children when they are not sure their request will be granted; or they get one parent to side with them, and then have mom or dad ask the other parent to grant the request for the children.
Jesus doesn't grant their request, but simply asks them what they want.
36. And He said to them, "What do you want Me to do for you?"
37. And they said to Him, "Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left."
And after hearing that they want to sit next to Him in heaven, Jesus responds with another question to see if they are willing to also accept the responsibility that goes along with that position.
38. But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?"
39. And they said to Him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.
40. "But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."
Jesus grants them the responsibility as a test of their faith, but withholds granting their request for seats of honor.
41. And hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.
The other apostles become indignant with James and John over their request.
This expression of indignation is also an expression of jealousy, because inside they also wanted to be first.
Thus Jesus begins to explains to them all, that being first in the kingdom isn't as it is on earth, for the servant of all is the one to become first, as He Himself came to serve.
42. And calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, "You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.
43. "But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;
44. and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.
45. "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Many people in the world want to become first, or to be in an important position.
This applies to both adults and children.
Many people want it, but few are willing to take the responsibility that goes along with it.
I have had so many people request to serve in a position, and then when they are granted it, they fall flat on their faces.
But the true leaders just do what is needed.
They automatically take the responsibility and run with it.
They accomplish the task, never seeking a position of authority; but in the process of their accomplishment, they have assumed the authority.
They do what they do, not for the reward, but because they know it should be done, and they have the ability to do it.
They do it because it's the correct thing to do.
They do it because they are responsible individuals.
They do what they do as a service to others.
They do what they do because they enjoy listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and in receiving His advice.
And after they have accomplished what they set out to do, they are often surprised when the position is offered to them.
Human nature hasn't changed in the past 2,400 years, and neither has the kingdom of God.
And each and every one of us can be a better servant of God each day of our lives, if we are willing.
All we have to do is practice listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and rejecting the others.
Every one of our lives can be a whole lot better if we learn this lesson.
Let us pray!
Your Comments are welcome
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