The Advent Season – The Gift of Others

Sermon for December 9, 2018

CrossPoint Community Church

Pastor Dennis Solis

Theme: The Advent Season- The Gift of Others

Scripture:  Phil 1:3-6 (and various texts)

Introduction

Phil 1:3-6

It seems to me that one of the goals of a church/fellowship, is to nurture relationships in such a way that it would make it hard for any of us to imagine life without each other. 

When a congregation of people is living well in God, the bond it shares will be strong and hard to break.

And I think it’s because, when we are interacting in the right spirit and state of mind, we will see each other not as burdens, but as gifts.

I am here to be a help to you, you are here to be a help to me.  We all help each other.

I kind of liken it to a pitcher and a catcher.  If you have ever watched an MLB baseball game…you will notice how the catcher works with the pitcher’s pitches.  They call it framing the pitch.  A pitcher will throw the ball and when a pitch lands outside the supposed strike zone, the catcher will subtly move his mitt and position his body to help the pitch look like it’s in the strike zone.  In other words he tries to help his pitcher succeed, accomplish his goal.

We all need help in our quest to know and follow God. Its part of God design that we would be helpful to one another, that we would hit the target like a pitcher and a catcher work together to do.

In our hearts, when we are understanding this we will see each other as gifts and each one of us will make it our objective to be a gift to my family in Christ.

So this morning I want to share a few Scriptures that will help us, if we apply them, to be the kind of gifts we are meant to be to each other.

I asked that Philippians 1:3-6 be read because I think we hear in Paul’s words an attitude that sees others as  a gift when he says-  “I think my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel…”  No doubt Paul was a missionary evangelist and so he is giving thanks that they have responded to the call of God to believe in and follow Jesus, but Paul also understood the need for long term investment that believers are to make toward one another if they are to fulfill this partnership in the gospel. So from Paul and other Scriptures here are 4 key things we have to understand and excel in to help each other realize the goal of God for each one of us

All of these things are important, so just know I ‘m not trying to communicate anything by the order in which I give them.

The first thing we must do to be a gift to each other comes from Proverbs 27:17-( Read Text) I hear it saying- Be a part of each other’s Critical Growth

By critical, I mean, important, I mean, the hard complicated areas of maturity that must be reached and transformed in us.  This text communicates friction and a measure of pain when it comes to our growth.  If we truly want to help each other we must be willing to experience and go through moments, even seasons , of discomfort as we try to understand the will of God for his people.  In God’s plan we are supposed to love each other enough to submit ourselves not only to the affirmation we give each other, but also to the challenge we present to one another through dialogue and through the tensions and conflict we can sometimes create for one another.  Some people run away from this.  They think that real fellowship is a place of constant comfort and peace, but that’s not real, you might create a personal world where that is all you will accept as long as it’s in your power to do, but that’s not where critical growth happens. It happens where we are sometimes pushed and exposed and corrected and made to have to forgive and/or change our actions and even our views.    You see, a well-informed Christian understands that we all come to this place as “sinners on the mend”.  Yes, God forgives us and starts the change process, but even in the cleansing Jesus does, there is so much dirt and residue and so many opportunities to let the dirt, off thinking and living, seep back in, so no wise Christian would think they bring only purity to the dynamics of fellowship or life.   Recently I watched a western movie that had a scene with a prospector.  Have you ever watched a prospector pan for gold?   What do they do?  They scoop up the mud in water…and swirl it around and around in their pan, and slowly the dirt disappears, to reveal any gold that may be on the bottom.  That is a picture, I believe, of our life in God, he is getting the mud out, no doubt, but it’s a process, go too fast and you won’t get to the gold.  So in the big picture, God gives us each other to be a part of the process.  I grow in the deepest parts of me by being committed to you so that through the ups and downs of life and through the give and take of learning from one another….we grow in our deepest places.  We help each other change through the joyful, painful experience of relationship building.       We all know that change is painful, so let’s not hold it against each other when we perceive each other to be accomplices to the change that God may be trying to make in us.  Few churches have taken the path that we find ourselves on CrossPoint.  I don’t say this to say “aren’t we something”, I say it to say to you who have felt uncomfortable and maybe at times have questioned your place here; part of what we give each other is both the struggle and the space to struggle with the things and ways of God.  None of us are experts in this, but all of us are here to help one another grow up, grow mature in Christ.   You my brothers and sisters have made me at times look in the mirror and see something I’ve not wanted to see….that was a gift from you….

The second thing we must do to be a gift to each other comes from Ecclesiastes 4:12- (Read text) I hear it saying- We must make every effort to be there for one another.

This text speaks of protection and support.

None of us want to feel alone.  I’m not talking about the desire to be alone, all of us have that to various degrees. I’m talking about that deep sense of wanting to belong.  All of us want to belong somewhere and to someone.  In Christ we belong to God and in God we are meant to belong to one another, to address that deep complicated desire to feel connected to others.

One of the ways we gift each other is by demonstrating that we do belong to each other.

It’s not about living off of each other, but living with each other.  It’s that sense a conscience-ness we have toward one another. It’s a commitment to be there when one of us needs the presence of others.  We won’t always bat a 1000 on this.   But we must keep mindful of our need to give support to each other.  Sometimes it may be material support, but often it is support for the troubles and tragedies of life.

Henry Nouwen,   a very influential Christian writer once wrote –

“When we honestly ask ourselves which people in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  The friend (Brother/Sister in Christ) who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend ( Brother/sister) who cares.”

Never underestimate how important your support of someone is in this fellowship.  I love the image of the text….try to break a lone strand and you might be able to do it, but gather around that strand, one, or two more, and the strength of the one triples.  And so it won’t be easily overpowered by what it is facing.    A support will be found that at a minimum gives a ray hope to someone, and at the most will help raise that person to new heights.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said an interesting things in his writing about Christian fellowship called – “Life Together.”  He said-

“It is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated.”    Dietrich Bonhoeffer   P.100   Life Together.

I think he’s saying, unless we choose to share some of each other’s burdens I will merely evaluate our relationship by what I get out of it.   We all recognize the problem with that.

Keep working at it, CrossPoint.  Let us be there more and more for each other.

This may mean, help through a financial storm, it may mean trying to be present in some way when one of us is going through something… it may mean, valuing something someone else is doing in ministry by supporting them with your presence when they do it.  Whatever it is, see yourself as a strand that can braid itself around a fellow Christ-follower when support is needed. 

The third thing we must do to be a gift to one another comes from I Thess 5:11 (Read it) I hear it saying- Our words have the power to lift one another

We can apply this in various ways, but I want to concentrate on the power of our verbal encouragement.

You have a tool that allows you to give something important to people every day, without diminishing yourself in the least.  Many of us may have limited resources when it comes to income or even material goods, but all of us can use our words without fear of bankruptcy to encourage one another.  I’m pretty sure we don’t’ use them as much as we should.

But if we did, we would all be different.

I remember hearing Tony Bennett being interviewed on the radio And he was being asked about his success and the longevity of his career, and he said,    “When I was young, someone said to me, ‘ I love the way you sing.’ And that has motivated me to this day.” 

I was driving to the church a month or so ago, and I was admittedly pretty down.  I knew I was and I was trying to deal with it.  Just like some of you do.  And as I was driving I saw on the front lawn of a house some Halloween floats, I think it was a day or two after Halloween, and they were just a pile of plastic deflated on the grass….and I thought, wow that’s exactly how I feel!   And like some of you I survived that episode of down.

But hear me believer, when you make it a point to speak encouragement to someone, God uses you to breathe air back into their souls!   Sometimes you will, maybe without knowing it, lift them from a deep low and be a part of their strength to carry on , and sometimes without knowing it,  your kind, encouraging, positive, words may stay with them for years, and be a part of the motivation and inspiration that helps them accomplish good things. 

Some of us, maybe many of us struggle to speak positive/encouraging words into others because we don’t know how.  It didn’t happen to us when it should have.

I think this deficit can have two effects on us

  1. It can make us have a very low self-esteem.  The negative words (or lack of positive words) poured into us, stay with us and we are afraid to try because we don’t see our worth
  2. If we didn’t receive it or if what we received was bad, it can cause us to withhold from others, somehow believing we are preserving our own importance by not acknowledging the value, giftedness and good in someone else.  We may think since no one seems to trust me or value who I am, why should I trust anyone else or believe in them? The result being a hard heart, a harshness of spirit or a inability to praise someone else.

Jesus came to crush these attitudes in our lives.  He came to set us free by telling us that we are highly esteemed in the eyes of God.   Listen to the choruses we sing, maybe to a fault they express this….”O how he loves”….”You dance over me”, I am a friend of God” for example.

But this understanding is meant to free our tongues so we can build up our brothers and sisters and all those  we come in contact with!

Tell people you appreciate them. 

Express your thankfulness for what they contribute to your life

Remind those who are hurting of how much they mean to you

When someone does something good, thank them.

When someone does something not good, remind them of who they are and the great potential they have in the Lord

Find ways, daily, weekly to give people a lift.  Call them, write them, email them, Text them, visit them, greet them with words that encourage.  When you’re with them, be aware of the good they do and acknowledge it with thanksgiving.

Everyone who is a part of this fellowship should feel encouraged/supported and challenged with love to grow deep in God.  But hear me Christ-follower, your first priority must be to do these things for and to your brother and sister in Christ…be it for them!  Your first aim can’t be to have everyone else be it for you! That’s not how it works in the kingdom of God, faith in God understands the truth of “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  When that is our attitude, all, that is, more and more of us will look at our lives and each other and say,

“I can’t imagine my life without you!”

Amen.

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