Summary of the Sermon by Pastor Zubin Medora at Bethany International Service on Sunday, 2 December 2018.
The Agony Of Victory
The former US President HW George Bush Senior was a war pilot. He flew 58 combat missions during WW II and one day, he was shot down over the Pacific by Japanese anti-aircraft. He managed to parachute out and was rescued by a submarine after huddling in a life raft for four hours while enemy forces circled him. Senior HW Bush was wondering why was his life spared, and why didn’t he die in the WW II like many of his comrades. The same question goes to us; if we are still here alive on this earth, what does God have in stored for each one of us today?
Our earthly life is never without problem, like the Swahili phrase Hakuna (without) matata (problem) – it means no worries, from the Lion King.
BIBLE – BASIC INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE LEAVING EARTH
Paul described his life as a fight and as a race. The word “fight” appears 170 times in the Bible - the start of our race is the day we receive Christ as our Lord and Saviour. In this race we too have competitors; which are our enemies of faith. Who is the opponent of our life? Eph 6:12 says that we fight against the spiritual powers of darkness. Another opponent in life is our self; our obedience to the Word of God. We know that Christ is the judge and we long for His approval on judgement day after this earthly life, so the next question is - what is this that we are racing for?
Are we racing to be saved to gain the approval of Christ or are we racing for the prize of the crowns of life?
There are stages of our race of life:
Justification – we are made righteous in God’s eyes. When we are justified by faith it means that we are delivered by the penalty of sin, for the wages of sin is death. Then begins the race of life – we get better and better as we are delivered from the power of sin. Glorification is the day when Jesus decides whether we gain Jesus’s approval in our race of life. Suffering is the hallmark of a Christian life. Paul forgets what is behind, amnesia state of mind; he did know allow his past memories to prevent him from becoming a better Christian. Satan will always ask us to look at our sins, but God will always ask us to look at His Son Jesus. Paul was actually an over-achiever; both the good and the bad. He persecuted Jews, and after he got saved, any normal man would feel unworthy. No matter what we have done in our life; we can move on for the Lord will be merciful towards our iniquity (Heb 8:12).
Philippians 3 opens with Paul writing that he has no confidence in the flesh, he forgets all his achievements. Many of us think that we do enough for the Lord and if we say so it actually means we are living the spiritual comfort zone (Phil 3:13-14). When we think we are doing enough, we stop improving ourselves and become less competitive. Paul never allowed himself to remain comfortable in his spiritual life. To get out from the comfort zone is a feeling of agony, we may feel a lot of resistance. The word “press” in the original Greek is “agonizo” which is the root word for “agony” which was how Jesus felt when He sweat blood at the Garden of Eden. Why should we have pain in trying to be a better Christian? “Dokimos” is another Greek word which means “proved” or “approved”, a trial through application God approves of us when we have been tested.
This is the hallmark of a true Christian - being proven through a test of approval. The approval of Jesus is what we long for, our ultimate prize. What slows us down in this race of life? Heb 12: 11 Jesus talks about amputation or cutting off things that cause us to sin. Amputation is always bloody and painful, there has to be a sacrifice on the altar of our life (Matt 5:29). Why is it always so painful? That is because God’s system of justice and approval, and recognizing contribution is not based on how large our contribution is to the treasury of His Kingdom.
If our giving does not affect the giver, then our giving is not impactful. Our giving needs to impact us in order to make an impact to touch God’s heart. The devil loves false humility when we do not possess true humility. True humility takes our ego, from our self-worth. It may cause pain for us to ask for forgiveness, but our obedience to God has to take precedence. Our obedience brings assurance of the Father if we humble ourselves to make the necessary godly decisions in order to gain Christ’s approval. It is not whether we win or lose but how much we obey the Lord; how we can gain Christ’s approval (1 Cor 9:24).
Why do we need to gain Christ’s approval? Just like how we wish for parental approval, approval from Jesus means everything to us when we stand before Jesus (Mat 24:31). The degree of our relationship in our eternity with Christ later on, depends on our earthly life. Paul has kept the faith, he fought the good fight of faith (2 Tim 4:7-8). The approval of Christ needs the greatest faith; for faith is believing before seeing. “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me - is a song that imagines life on judgement day and when we see Jesus face to face. Cling to the promises of Jesus, this struggle is 100%-worth it and all our struggles will not be in vain. God wants us to finish our race well for the glory of God.