ALWAYS A WINNER
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
20 OCTOBER 1991
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 Peter 4:8
Preparation Verse: (John 15:13)
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
Always a winner?
Yes, we can always be a winner.
And we can be a winner even when others think we have lost.
This might sound like foolishness, and to the world it may be just that, but that need not be so for a believer.
The world thought they had won, when they crucified Jesus, but they were wrong; Jesus won not only for Himself, but also for us.
Jesus let go of the world He was in, the same world that we are in, so that He could win the battle over death, and in the process save those who followed Him.
Jesus passed through death, but it had no lasting hold on Him.
He overcame death, and all of us who truly believe will do likewise.
Note what the writer of Hebrews says in 12:1-2.
1. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2. fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Now someone might be saying, "This may be all right for Jesus – He’s God – but it won't work for me."
And if that's what we're saying, or even thinking, we're wrong; for this winning is for all of us.
Do you remember what Jesus said to the Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:21)?
21. "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."
But we still struggle with the situations in our lives, don't we?
We know from the unction of the Holy Spirit, and from the Word of God, that we are to shun the evil around us; but that can be hard at times.
We know the difference between right and wrong, but we give in to temptation all too often.
As an example, everyone should realize that we only get flesh, eggs, and dairy to eat, and fur and leather to wear by causing animals to suffer, which is wrong, yet the vast majority of people continue use and consume these products of cruelty.
Perhaps our problem is that we don't really believe that we have the power to overcome.
We feel that the pull of the world around us is too great, and we may even feel that the Lord will understand and forgive.
That may be true, but it would be much better for all of us if we would use this strength ahead of time, and not give in to the sin at all.
Let's turn back to the book of Hebrews and note what we are told in 4:14-16.
14. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
And here is a key.
If we give in to the sins of the world around us, it is a bad witness to others, for we claim to be Christians, and they will look upon us as hypocrites.
We will find it easier to hold on to our confession of faith if we remember Jesus in our time of trial and temptation.
15. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
This is God's grace, but it also carries with it a source of conviction.
We have been created in the image of God, that is to be holy and righteous; but since we didn't hold on to that grace, God in all His mercy gave us His only begotten Son and His Spirit, so that we would have the power to overcome the temptations, just as Jesus did.
But at the same time, God knew of our weaknesses; thus, through the human life of Jesus Christ, He can sympathize with what we are going through.
Again, He sympathizes with our weaknesses, but He does not condone our giving in to the sin.
But He is still faithful to forgive us.
This forgiveness can only come through our confession of faith; thus, we must hold on to it.
If we sin and are convicted of it through our faith, and turn from that sin to seek the Lord's forgiveness, He is ever faithful to forgive us.
16. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
When we sin, we lose.
If we fail to confess our sins, and turn away from them, and repent, we lose even more.
And if we die in our sins, we lose everything.
But by holding on to our confession of faith, and returning to the Lord, we will come up as winners.
The effects of our sins may still be with us, but we will still be winners.
The effects of our past sins may still be causing us problems today and perhaps well into the future, too; but we will still be winners.
We will always be winners, if we hold on to our confession of faith.
And remember that a confession is not a confession unless it is expressed in words and actions.
Sometimes we suffer unjustly because of the sins of others, and this applies to both believers and non-believers.
And sometimes we suffer solely because of our confession of faith.
But this suffering can make us even greater winners.
We're going to take a look at two examples of these kinds of suffering, and as we look at them, try to look at them from God's perspective as well as your own – as if you are there.
First, let's turn to Isaiah 53:7-12 and look at this prophecy of the
suffering servant which Jesus fulfilled seven centuries later, and observe
carefully the suffering of the innocent for the guilty.
7. He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth.
8. By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation, who considered
That He was cut off out of the land of the living,
For the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?
9. His grave was assigned with wicked men,
Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
Because He had done no violence,
Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
Every one of us has been oppressed and afflicted to some degree in our life, and we have gone through some suffering, too; but was it as bad as it was with Jesus?
Were we truly innocent of all sins against the Lord when these things occurred, or perhaps was the Lord trying to attract our attention?
And during these times, did we keep silent or did we complain and make a lot of noise?
Jesus, who was innocent, kept quiet to the point of death.
Not only did Jesus not protest because of His own innocence, but He kept quiet concerning the guilty for whom He died.
Jesus knew He was a winner, as should we; and He knew that none of the false accusations or the oppressions or the afflictions could change that, as we should know, also.
As confessed Christians we should know this, but we don't seem to confirm this knowledge very often.
And this makes us weak.
Being a strong Christian is like being a strong athlete.
If an athlete doesn't exercise and practice, he or she will not be very competitive and will not win.
And Christian, if we don't exercise and practice our faith and turn away from the sins of the world around us, we too could lose.
But unlike an athlete, a Christian who exercises and practices their faith will always be a winner.
And it doesn't matter if at times others seem to be scoring points against us; they will never come up to the winning number of points that we have.
It doesn't even matter if they cheat in the process; as long as we behave like the winner we are, they will still lose and we will still win.
God doesn't like those who lie and cheat and oppress others, whether they're humans or other animals; or perhaps it’s better to say that He doesn't like what they do, but He nevertheless desires that they would change.
This is why it is so important for us to set the proper example.
And remember – we are already winners, so it doesn't matter what they do against us.
Now with this in mind, let's look at the suffering servant from God's perspective.
10. But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
He will see His offspring,
He will prolong His days,
And the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
It isn't that we are to have a “martyr complex” and seek to bring suffering upon ourselves, for that is actually prideful.
But we are to look beyond the immediacy of our problems and afflictions in order to try to see what good could come from what is happening.
And the way we handle situations of these kinds can in itself be the best witness to others of the presence of God in our lives.
Can we say as Jesus did, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
Or, as Stephen said as they were stoning him to death, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" (Acts 7:60)
It is quite likely that these dying words had a great influence on the conversion of Paul and many others.
We, too, can turn what the world considers a loss into a win.
And as God says of the suffering servant,
11. As a result of the anguish of His soul,
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities.
We cannot bear one another’s iniquities, as Jesus does, so that we can pay the price of their sins; but we can do the next best thing, as James tells us in 5:19-20.
19. My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back,
20. let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.
Or as we are told in 1 Peter 4:8, "…love covers a multitude of sins."
For love covers the fear of our afflictions, and that is the witness that will turn people back to God.
Thus, we turn a loss into a win.
And the Lord rewards us.
Getting back to Isaiah:
12. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
And He will divide the booty with the strong;
Because He poured out Himself to death,
And was numbered with the transgressors;
Yet He Himself bore the sins of many,
And interceded for the transgressors.
We can do the same through our witness in love and prayer.
God doesn't promise to always save our lives here on earth. He only promises to save the lives of the true believers in heaven.
In the Bible, we are given many examples of the believers' deaths, including our second example: that of the message to the church in Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11).
8. "And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
9. 'I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
10. 'Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
11. 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.'
I pray that we are hearing this message.
It is through death that those who suffered found everlasting life.
Satan cannot destroy what Jesus has accomplished.
Satan's only hold is over those who don't follow Jesus.
All who follow Jesus are winners.
This doesn't mean, as some would tell us, that if we believe, we will always be in good health and have lots of wealth.
This kind of teaching is misleading.
As as example, it is a well know fact that most chronic diseases come from the eating of animals, so if people continue to eat them, they will most often have health problems.
Our winning, our perfect health, our abundance of treasure, and our everlasting life are in heaven.
Through all our testings, through all our trials, through all our tribulations, we have to hold tightly onto the Lord and His word, and we will be a winner.
We will always be a winner!
Your Comments are welcome
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