The Christian Life Ain't No Pleasure Cruise!
In this week's lesson, we heard the story of Paul's famous shipwreck. One of the questions that Cody sought to answer in his sermon was, "Aren't we as believers entitled to smooth sailing?" This is a reasonable question. After all, aren't we as Christians in some way favored by God as his children? Clearly our Calvinist perspectives on God's sovereignty in election would lead to that way of thinking right???
The truth is, despite the sales pitch many churches and pastors are peddling these days, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that we should expect the Christian life to be more of a bumpy ride than a pleasure cruise. Our gracious election into salvation isn't a one way ticket to a life of comfort and luxury, rather it is a call to sacrificial living, humility, serving others; and, often times, trials, suffering, and persecution...all for the sake of the gospel. So, even if we persevere through all of that, Christ get's the glory, not us! With such a gloomy forecast, why even bother taking the ride in the first place?
In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul recounts his resume of suffering which included multiple beatings, a stoning, several shipwrecks, danger, danger, and more danger, restlessness, hunger, thirst, lack of shelter, lack of supplies, and, the icing on the cake, intense anxiety and concern for the churches he had planted and the welfare of his brothers and sisters in Christ! Let's not forget, this is the man who was chosen by Christ to be his missionary to the Gentiles, and who was blessed with unwavering faith and tremendous power through the Holy Spirit. If this guy didn't get a pass, what chance do any of us have!?!?
The stories of Christ's suffering servants abound in the book of Acts. We've already talked at length about suffering:
- How do we suffer well?
- What is God's purpose in suffering?
- How does our suffering mirror Christ's suffering on our behalf?
- And on and on and on we could go...
So, what more can we learn from this latest example of suffering for the gospel? Is there more to be said? Probably not, but I don't think that it is insignificant that suffering is such a common theme throughout scripture. Clearly it is a subject God has seen fit to instruct us on at great length. Sometimes God's people suffer the consequences of their sin. Sometimes, however, they suffer the consequences of, or as a result of, or at the hands of, other sinners living in a sinful, broken, and fallen world. We can't escape it. Nor do I think we are intended to.
We suffer because Christ suffered, but when we share in his suffering, we also share in his resurrection that leads to eternal life and glorification! Paul suffered great personal loss so that his life might count for something more, so that Christ might gain more faithful followers. This is the mission of every Christian! We...not just apostles like Paul, not just those missionaries we know, not just our pastors, not just that other guy sitting in the congregation next to us...we, all of us, are called to pour out our lives for the sake of the gospel.
And what does pouring out our lives look like? It's giving of our time, talents, and treasures for the good of the kingdom. Sure, that is part of it. But it may also be giving of our blood, sweat, and tears too! As we come down the home stretch in our series over the book of Acts, my prayer is that the one thing that we take away from all that we have learned...if we can only keep just one thing...is that being called to follow Christ is a call to radical sacrifice (and maybe even suffering). It's not an invitation to a luxurious cruise on an ocean liner, it's a seat on a little wooden boat in the middle of a stormy sea being tossed to and fro. Sure, it may not be a pleasure cruise, but that little boat has one thing no cruise ship could ever offer...a seat next to Jesus, the one who has power and authority over even the wind and the waves!
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 56 - The Shipwreck
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. How did Paul end up shipwrecked?
2. Aren't we as believers entitled to smooth sailing?
3. What does faith look like in the midst of chaos?
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