As I have spent the last couple of days planning this sermon, I have been blessed by the Lord through His Holy Word. I do not know about you but, when I open the Word of God to study, I discover new things about Him and about myself every single time. The New Year is almost upon us. 2018 went by so quickly. It seems that 2019 will go by even faster. I want to be useful to the kingdom of God in 2019. I want YOU to be useful to the kingdom of God in 2019. The Lord teaches us how we can be useful. This is an article based on the sermon that I am preaching this coming Sunday at Southern Calvert Baptist Church in Lusby Maryland. If you are in the area, stop by and encourage me. If you are not close enough to come, the sermon will be available online in the near future. God has truly blessed us with modern technology. I often wonder what all the Apostle Paul would have accomplished if he would have had the internet 😀
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5)
The above verses were written by the Apostle Paul teaching believers who to make the most of every season in life. Time here could be translated as season. Why is this important? It is important because you cannot grow crops unless you plant during the correct season. You can work harder than everyone else but, if you do not plant during the right season, you will not be able to gather a harvest. There are things that we do now that will impact the latter half of 2019. If we do not do those things now, we may work hard later but miss out on the benefits because we did not work at the right time. We must learn to make the most of our time, daily, as well as seasonally.
The Lord wants us to understand and apply His will to our lives, according to the verses from Ephesians. His will is found in His Word. According to His Word, we are commanded to make disciples of all nations. We do this by investing the Word of God in the lives of the people around us. This is how we store up treasures in heaven. In order to invest, I have to have what to invest therefore, I must be a great student of the Word of God.
In II Thessalonians 3, the same Apostle Paul teaches us about managing our time wisely. Time is the commodity of our lives. We cannot save it. We cannot make more of it. All we can do is spend it. We either spend it wisely or foolishly. Time is the gift that the Lord gives to all of us. How we spend it is up to us. Let’s discover the four things that the Apostle Paul teaches us about spending our time wisely in 2019 so that we can be useful to the kingdom of God.
I. Enlist prayer warriors
Spiritual battles are won on our knees. This is one of our best defenses. The Apostle Paul could not do it all alone. He needed prayer warriors to intercede on his behalf. He enlists the Thessalonians to be his prayer warriors.
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you;
2 and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith. (II Thessalonians 3)
Have you reached out to prayer warriors and asked them to intercede on your behalf in 2019? Do it. It will change your 2019. Ask the prayer warriors in your life to pray that you would be useful to the kingdom of God in 2019. If they commit to pray, you will definitely reap the benefits in your spiritual life. Be a prayer warrior for others. Pray even if they do not reach out to you. Definitely agree to intercede if they do reach out to you. Ask God to reveal some genuine prayer warriors to you and when He does, enlist them to pray on your behalf.
II. Engage with a spiritual authority figure
Do you have a spiritual authority figure in your life? As Americans, we find this difficult because of the idea of the rugged individual that permeates our culture. God has called us to a community of faith. Within that community, there is authority and leadership. Many want the community but, when it comes to having an authority figure, they shrink away. Look at the authority that Paul had in the lives of the Thessalonians.
4 We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command.
5 May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ. (II Thessalonians 3)
The Apostle Paul had confidence in the Thessalonians that they would obey. That is a sign of a follower of Jesus Christ, the ability to be subject to authority figures. Being submissive does not come naturally to us. There is something in us that fights against authority, both secular and spiritual. It’s called SIN. Our love of the Lord is manifested in our obedience to the spiritual authority figures that He places in our lives. They are for our own good. Do you have a spiritual authority figure in your life? Can that person have confidence that if he gives you a command that you will do it? The Thessalonians needed a spiritual authority figure because they had a sin nature. I need a spiritual authority figure in my life because I have a sin nature. You need a spiritual authority figure in your life because of your sin nature. Will you seek a spiritual mentor so that you can be useful to the Lord in 2019?
III. Excel as an example
The expression, “do as I say, not necessarily as I do” ; it does not sit well with us. The reason is, because we need examples to follow. We also need to be examples for others to follow. The Apostle Paul does not simply give the Thessalonians theory about spiritual living. He sets the example for them to follow.
7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you,
8 nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you;
9 not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. (II Thessalonians 3)
I cannot teach others how to be useful to the kingdom of God in 2019 if I am not already doing the necessary things to prepare myself to be useful. I need to set the example so that I can say as the Apostle Paul, “follow me”. I need to be a great planner. I need to work according to the plan. I need to evaluate and plan. In order to be an example, I need to do an honest evaluation of my usefulness to the kingdom in 2018 so that I can make course corrections for 2019. I need to be part of a team in doing this. Paul did not do this on his own. He worked with Silvanus and Timothy. Who is helping you evaluate your spiritual life so that you can make course corrections? This is where the help of a spiritual authority figure comes into play. This is another reason why you and I need spiritual mentors.
IV. Exhort each other
The idea of exhortation is to come along side someone and strengthen him or her. Sometimes it is with words of encouragement. Others times it with humble confrontation in order to correct and then encourage. Exhortation is not always easy but, it is necessary. The Apostle Paul encourages and confronts in this section of his letter. How we receive it demonstrates whether we are wise or foolish, mature or immature.
6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.
10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.
11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.
12 Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.
15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
Over the past 20 years of ministry, I have noticed that there are many believers who keep themselves super busy with life (ministry) yet, when it comes to being efficient and effective for the kingdom, they really do not have an idea because they do not evaluate and plan. We live in a society that worships busyness but pays little attention to accomplishment. We keep ourselves so busy that we often do not have time to evaluate our activities to see what we can improve. We have become so sensitive that we see any kind of critique as being negative. I was speaking to a lady after preaching at a church one Sunday and I asked her how she was serving the Lord. Her response about knocked me over. She said, “I have been praying for the last 20 years for God to reveal His will for my life. I will keep praying until He answers”. It sounds super spiritual but, when you pause to think about it, she has not been useful to the kingdom of God for the past 20 years, even though she was in church every Sunday and attending 3 different weekly Bible studies. A busybody is someone who is living an undisciplined and unruly life. They may be doing a lot of activity but, they never accomplish anything. Busyness and accomplishment are very different. God does not want us to be busy for the sake of being busy. He wants us to be busy being efficient for the kingdom of heaven. Those who are busybodies need to be confronted in love so that course corrections can be made. This is where a spiritual mentor comes in handy. A spiritual authority figure loves you enough to confront you in love for your own good, so that you can make course corrections and no longer be a busy body. God wants us to work in a quiet fashion and the best way to do that is to plan, evaluate, and make course corrections so that you can plan more and evaluate. This is a great process for spiritual growth. If you are surrounded by busybodies, distance yourself from them. That means, do not hang out with them just for the sake of hanging out. If you are going to be around them, confront them in love, exhort them to correct, and encourage them to get better. They will leave you alone if you do this. This is how you show Biblical love to them. Just hanging out with them will cause you to become just like them. When a person is confronted and corrected, according to the Lord, they mark themselves as being wise or foolish based on their reaction to correction. If they accept the confrontation and receive correction, they prove to be wise and spiritually mature. If they ignore, faint, or strike back when confronted, they prove to be foolish and spiritually immature. All of that comes to the service when we go through the process of planning, evaluating, and course correcting. When you are a busybody and just continue to be busy, years will go by and you will have no idea if you are being effective and efficient for the kingdom or not. I know many busybodies in churches. I do not want to be one. I do not want you to be one. That is why I need to be exhorted and you do as well. I want to be confronted and corrected and you should want that too. How are you going to respond to this message?
May the Lord help us heed His Word in our daily lives.