读经： 诗97:1-12 林前9:19-10:13 代下2:1-5:1
No Sloppy Living
I love to play sport. I have never been particularly good at it, but I enjoy it enormously. None of the guys I play squash with play at a very high standard. It is all very friendly and relaxed, and yet, we are all very competitive! Even the level we play at requires ‘strict training’. I have to train and play regularly. It is one of the reasons I try to be careful about what I eat and how much sleep I get.
The apostle Paul writes, ‘You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally’ (1 Corinthians 9:24–25, MSG).
If those who compete at sport go into strict training in order to achieve something that ‘will not last’, how much more should we go into ‘strict training’ in our moral and spiritual life in order to ‘get a crown that will last forever’ (v.25).
Paul writes, ‘I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition’ (v.26, MSG). Worshipping and serving God is Paul’s aim and ambition in life. He wants to do it to the very best of his ability. He wants to give it everything he’s got. He is going for gold.
Worship and service are very closely connected. In fact, the same Greek word latreuo is used for both worship and service. All human beings are worshippers. You either worship the one true God, or someone or something else. All human beings are servants or indeed slaves – to God, to yourself or to someone or something else.
In the passages for today, we see the importance of worshipping and serving the one true God with all of our hearts and beings – giving everything we have got – going for gold.
1. Why do you worship and serve?
Psalm 97:1-12God is in charge of his universe. ‘The Lord reigns’ (v.1). If the Lord did not reign, there would be no point to life – but he does and there is cause for rejoicing (v.1).
The psalmist calls for all creation to worship, ‘On your knees… worship Him!’ (v.7, MSG).
He praises God – first, for who he is, and second, for what he has done. It is because of who God is that he acts to bring protection, deliverance, guidance and joy to his people (vv.10–12).
- God is your protector
He guards your life: ‘Those who love him he keeps safe’ (v.10b, MSG).
- God is your deliverer
He delivers you from the hand of the wicked (v.10c). He snatches you from their grip (v.10c, MSG).
- God is your guide
He sheds light on you. He guides and convicts, opening your eyes (v.11a).
- God is your joy
He gives joy so you can rejoice in him and praise his holy name (vv.11b,12) – ‘The irrepressible joy that comes from consciousness of His favour and protection’ (v.11, AMP).
‘So’, he concludes, ‘God’s people, shout praise to God, Give thanks to our Holy God!’ (v.12, MSG).
Lord, I worship you because you are the king who reigns over the entire universe. Everything is under your ultimate control. Thank you that you are my protector, my deliverer, my guide and my joy.
2. Whom do you worship and serve?
1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13Until the love of God changes our perspective, most of us are slaves to ourselves (and to our own bodily appetites). Paul is the opposite. Because of Jesus Christ, Paul made his own body his slave and made himself ‘a slave to everyone’ (9:19a).
Paul says, ‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some’ (v.22b). This does not mean that he is hypocritical or uncomfortable in his own skin, or not capable of being himself. Nor does it mean that he changes the message of the gospel to suit the audience. He was passionate about preaching the gospel and his purpose was ‘to win as many as possible’ (v.19b).
As Professor Gordon Fee writes, ‘Whereas [Paul] is intransigent on matters that affect the gospel itself, whether theological or behavioural, that same concern for the saving power of the gospel is what causes him to become all things to all people in matters that don’t count.’
Paul writes, ‘I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view’ (v.22, MSG). This has wide application, perhaps even beyond the areas that St Paul had in mind. To take a trivial example, it might even affect the clothes you wear, in order that the people you are speaking to should not be put off and should be able to identify with you.
Whereas Paul was willing to be a slave to everyone, he was not willing to be enslaved by his bodily appetites. He regarded life as a race (v.24), seeing himself as a runner who needs to go into ‘strict training’ (v.25). Like an athlete he had to be ruthless with his own body. To make it his slave so that, having preached to others, he didn’t himself become ‘disqualified for the prize’ (v.27). Self-discipline is essential. Bring your body, mind, mouth and emotions under control.
Paul knew that there were many temptations around. He could see this from the history of his own people – ‘most of them were defeated by temptation during the hard times in the desert, and God was not pleased’ (10:5, MSG).
They set their hearts ‘on evil things’ (v.6). They were ‘sexually promiscuous’ (v.8, MSG). They put God to the test (v.9). They grumbled (v.10). ‘We must be careful not to stir up discontent; discontent destroyed them’ (v.10, MSG).
‘These are all warning markers – danger! – in our history books, written down so that we don’t repeat their mistakes. Our positions in the story are parallel – they at the beginning, we at the end – and we are just as capable of messing it up as they were. Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence’ (vv.11–12, MSG).
You will be tempted just as they were. Yet he says, ‘No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it’ (v.13, MSG).
Ask yourself these two questions:
- How can I ensure that I am not enslaved by my own desires?
- How can I serve everyone I come into contact with today?
Lord, help me to go into strict training in order to win ‘a crown that will last forever’. Help me to avoid falling into temptation. Thank you that you always provide a way out from temptation. Help me to take that way out. Help me to worship and serve you, and you alone.
3. How do you worship and serve?
2 Chronicles 2:1-5:1One of the things I love and admire about Hillsong Church is the example they set in terms of excellence in their worship. They give great attention to every detail of their music, welcome and recruiting and training of volunteers to ensure excellence in their worship.
I love the diversity of worship that is found in different parts of the church. Different churches worship in varying styles, but ultimately, style is not important. Our worship should be excellent. It should be our highest priority in terms of the use of our resources because we do it in honour of God.
As Solomon began building ‘the house of worship in honour of God’ (2:1, MSG), he says, ‘The house I am building has to be the best, for our God is the best… this house I’m building is going to be absolutely stunning – a showcase temple!’ (vv.5,9, MSG).
Achieving excellence took a great deal of material, time and effort. It required extraordinary attention to detail (chapters 2–4). The smallest details must be of the highest quality in God’s service.
This is why they used so much gold (4:21–22). Winners at sporting competitions receive gold medals because gold represents the very best. So, when we are worshipping and serving God, we must give our very best.
As Paul writes to the Colossians, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters… It is the Lord Christ you are serving’ (Colossians 3:23–24).
The preacher, Charles Spurgeon, was once talking to a cleaner in a house who had recently become a Christian. Spurgeon asked her what difference Jesus had made. Rather timidly she replied, ‘Well Sir, I now sweep under the doormats.’ She knew that in her job she was now ultimately serving and worshipping Jesus.
Lord, help us in our worship and our service of you to give attention to every detail and to ensure that everything we do is of the very highest quality.
1 Corinthians 10:12
‘So, if you think you are standing firm be careful that you don’t fall!’
It’s usually just when things are going well that I’m aware of some failure. We just have to be ‘careful’ – not in a scared way, but in a realistic way.