A Wide Door For Effective Service
A WIDE DOOR FOR EFFECTIVE SERVICE
Sermon By Terry Siverd / November 28,, 2021 / Cortland Church of Christ - - www.cortlandcoc.org
Welcome to those joining us online - - we're grateful for your interest in the study of God's word.
Our thanks to Rob Espinosa for sharing a timely and uplifting sermon last Sunday.
Have you ever had a really bad day? Sure you have - - we all have! One of my wife's good friends shared a story recently about one of her extra-ordinary days. “Extra-ordinary” being a euphemism for one really miserable day!
After awakening one morning, she headed to the garage for her car to transport her for the day's events. When she turned on her ignition key, the dashboard of her new car lit up like a pinball. Not sure what to do, she popped the hood and was surprised to see a bagel lying on top of her engine parts - - a clue that something wasn't quite right. A call to the auto dealership brought a tow truck that took her vehicle in for a trouble-shooting session. An initial diagnostic indicated that chipmunks had made mince-meat of her wiring system. Since it was going to take some time to sort through the damage done, so would be needing some temporary wheels. Because of COVID, the dealership was not currently offering “loaners”. However, she discovered that her auto insurance would pay for a rental. The dealer provided a courtesy shuttle to Enterprise. When she began the paperwork for the rental she quickly realized that her driver's license had just expired - - on her recent birthday. No driver's license, no car rental. The shuttle driver offered to take her to the BMV to renew her license. There she was told that in order to renew an expired license she would need her birth certificate. She thought her birth certificate was at her mom's house. The shuttle driver took her to her mother's (who was not at home). She opened the door with a key, but did not realize that her parents had changed the security code on the alarm. Promptly the police arrived. The birth certificate was nowhere to be found. The shuttle driver then took her to the courthouse to get a certified replacement. When she got there a sign noted that masks were required, although they didn't provide them. After a trip to a nearby drug store to buy a mask, the shuttle driver took her back to the BMV, where 23 people were now in line ahead of her. Now that's what you call a rude awakening!! When the shuttle driver finally took her back to Enterprise, he expressed that he'd never had a day like that one!! The only good news of that day was that the dealer's bill for the wiring repair (approaching $2,000) was adjusted downward significantly (to about $300) thanks to the helpful intervention of her Geiko adjuster.
If you have a story that tops this one I'd like to hear it. The only one I know of that surpasses this one is a true story of an older friend of mine who while driving to Kentucky stopped to get gasoline in WV. His wife was sleeping in the back part of their camper van. He gassed up and traveled 100 miles down the highway before he realized that she, unbeknownst to him, had gotten out of the van for a restroom break.
Now, for today's sermon. Several weeks ago our midweek Bible group did some reflecting on a passage found in 1Cor.16:5-9. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth with the anticipation of visiting with them in the near future. But I shall come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; and perhaps I shall stay with you, or even spend the winter, that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for A WIDE DOOR FOR EFFECTIVE SERVICE HAS OPENED TO ME, AND THERE ARE MANY ADVERSARIES.
Our midweek study group has been addressing some of the hard sayings of Paul. That which makes 1Cor.16:9, fall into this category is the tension Paul describes between a wide door and many adversaries. These two thoughts are what we might be inclined to describe as mutually exclusive. If a wide door is open for effective service we might normally conclude that the adversaries were few. Or stated differently, the presence of many adversaries would seem to point towards a closed door.
Yet here Paul contends that the door is open wide in spite of numerous adversaries. This is an important lesson for ministry in particular, but also for life in general.
Unlike what we read of in the New Testament times, Christians today have been enticed by a kind of siren's song. This 21st century spiritual ditty communicates a sweet sounding melody that we are often quick to buy into. It conveys a notion that IF WE WALK IN THE LIGHT EVERYTHING WILL BE LIGHT AND ALL WILL BE ALL RIGHT … right now! While it is true that God always takes care of His faithful ones, He does not surround us by a protective bubble.
Acts 7:54f tells of the stoning of Stephen; Acts 8:1ff tells of the persecutorial scattering of the early saints, all except the apostles; But then. Acts 12:1f tells of mistreatment of the apostles: the beheading of James and the arrest of Peter. When we look closely there was no bubble then, and there's no bubble now.
As we journey in life trying to please the Lord, the seas will not always be calm nor will the paths always be easy and pleasant. The unvarnished truth is that, more often than not, life presents us with just the opposite.
Paul hurdled more OBSTACLES than we can ever imagine. cf. 2Cor.12:23ff
Paul was confronted with more OPPOSITION than we can fathom. In Mt.7:15, Jesus warned of ravenous wolves - - false prophets masquerading in sheep's clothing ... 1Cor.15:32 / I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus ... Acts 20:29 / after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock ... Philp.3:2 / beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, be ware of the false circumcision ... 2Tim.4:17 / I was delivered out of the lion's mouth ... 2Tim.4:14 / Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds
I will hasten to the punch line: Bumps in the road, or whatever you want to call them, are not obstacles to be avoided at all cost - - they are frequently stepping stones to growing stronger.
The book, Down The Great Unknown, by Edward Dornick, is the story of man's first extended exploration of the Colorado River. In May of 1869, a ragtag band of nine mountain men, led by John Wesley Powell (a one-armed Civil War veteran) embarked on the last quest of the American West. Like the Lewis & Clark expedition, It was a journey of discovery and tragedy. Only six of them survived what ended up being a trek spanning 99 days and 1,000 twisting, white-capped miles. They journeyed in four wooden rowboats (one destroyed), manning their oars facing backwards while careening through one daunting rapid after another. It is a remarkable piece of history and an inspirational story of man's ability to survive.
I've canoed and I know how hard it can be. My wife and I were never so close to divorce as on that float trip. Of course I am being facetious - - our exploits were nothing compared to what that 1869 crew experienced.
Back to our primary text - - 1Cor.16:9.
How could Paul say a wide door for effective service had opened for him when he was continually confronted by so many obstacles and so much opposition?
The answer lies in words a testimony recorded by Paul in 2Cor.12:8-10. It comes on the heels of his reference to a thorn in the flesh. I want us all to memorize this powerful citation. It is a key to living a faith-filled Christian life.
Concerning this I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG.