August 23, 2020 All for a Purpose

All Things for a Purpose

 

Our scripture reading this morning is 2 Corinthians 8:16-24.

 

In this passage of Scripture, Paul is still addressing the collection of money for the help of the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. There are some interesting things about this passage. We wonder who this famous brother is in verse 18. We may ask who the second brother is who will be accompanying Titus to visit the Corinthians in verse 22. We don’t know who these brothers were. But we will get to meet them one day!

 

The main idea in this passage is ensuring that the generous gift that the church will send to Jerusalem is safely administered. Paul again mentions that he expects the gift of the Corinthians to be generous (vs. 20) and, again, mentions that how much they give demonstrates their love (vs. 24). We looked at both of those truths last week, so there is no need to revisit them.

 

This morning I wish to focus on just one verse: verse 19.

And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will.[1]

The “he” is the unnamed brother that will accompany Titus on his trip to Corinth. The “act of grace” is the gift that the Corinthians will give. I wish to consider seven words in this verse: “for the glory of the Lord himself.”

Some of us go door to door with a survey. The survey that we take is an instrument to not only discover what people believe, but to provide an opportunity to get them to consider their spiritual condition before God. We always leave them with a printed gospel. We started with the Gospel of Mark and, more recently, we have been giving out Gospels of Luke.

One of the questions on the survey is “What is the purpose of life?” We have done many hundreds of surveys over the past few years and just about no one knows the purpose of life. I think we have only had three of four correct answers. It can be expected that unbelievers don’t know. They think that they evolved from pond scum, so how could there even be a purpose? But many that we survey claim to be Christians, and some are, and they don’t know either.

Florence Chadwick was the first woman to swim the English Channel. That is a distance of 21 miles. That is hard for me to imagine. Back in my college days I was visiting a large lake with one of my buddies. It was big enough that there was a small island in the middle of the lake. It was one mile from the shore. I told my friend that I could swim to that island if I wanted to. He didn’t believe me. So I did it. When I was about 2/3’s of the way there I began to lose my endurance and I started wondering if I was going to make it. I was really out of breath! But I pressed on and made it. After resting about 15 minutes I swam back. The swim back seemed easier than the swim there. That was only one mile. Twenty-one miles is amazing, especially when you consider that it is the open sea and not a calm lake!

After she swam the English Channel she attempted to be the first woman to swim from Catalina island to the coast of Southern California. The distance is only one mile longer, but the waters are rougher and there are more sharks.

On her attempt, as she swam, she looked ahead, Florence saw nothing but a solid wall of fog. Her body was numb. She had been swimming for nearly sixteen hours.

On that Fourth of July morning in 1952, the sea was like an ice bath and the fog was so dense she could hardly see her support boats. Sharks cruised toward her lone figure, only to be driven away by rifle shots. Against the frigid grip of the sea, she struggled on - hour after hour - while millions watched on national television.

Alongside Florence in one of the boats, her mother and her trainer offered encouragement. They told her it wasn't much farther. But all she could see was fog. They urged her not to quit. She never had . . . until then. With only a half mile to go, she asked to be pulled out.

Still thawing her chilled body several hours later, she told a reporter, "Look, I'm not excusing myself, but if I could have seen land I might have made it." It was not fatigue or even the cold water that defeated her. It was the fog. She was unable to see her goal.

Two months later, she tried again. This time, despite the same dense fog, she swam with her faith intact and her goal clearly pictured in her mind. She knew that somewhere behind that fog was land and this time she made it! Florence Chadwick became the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel, eclipsing the men's record by two hours!

  • One of the quandaries of life is that we become dejected,
  • sometimes uncertain as to the direction that we are supposed to go.
  • Even when things seem to go well for us, we occasionally find that our emotions don’t seem to match our situation.
  • Sometimes even when we accomplish something, we feel as if something is missing.

All of these things: dejection, uncertainty, low spirits, and a feeling as if something is missing are symptoms. And these symptoms plague Christians almost as much as those who are not in a covenant relationship with the living God.

They are symptoms of not knowing the goal, the purpose of life. Yes, we can be saved, on our way to heaven, active in the Lord’s work, but still not know the goal, the purpose of life.

 

Sometimes we can know what some good, even godly, objectives are. But if we get objectives confused with purpose then we will still find these symptoms arising.

There are many good objectives that we may have.

How about rising to the next level at the company for which we work? If we’re an employee we can become a supervisor. If we are a supervisor, we can become an executive. If we are the vice-president, we can become the president. If we are talented, we ought to advance because we may be able to do a better job than the person who is there now. In fact, you are probably sure you can do a better job wherever it is that you work. If you are successful you will also make more money which you can use wisely to bless your family. But we already know, don’t we, that is not our purpose?

How about to have a deeper, more loving, more meaningful relationship with our wife, our husband, our fiancée? That is a virtuous objective that will have enormous benefits in this life and the life to come. But, as good as that is, that is not the goal. On the positive side, what happens if we reach the deepest and most caring level of relationship that we can have? What then? On the negative side, what happens when they leave us? For our loved ones will all leave us eventually, or we will leave them. We don’t want to confuse an objective with our purpose.

How about pouring our lives into our children: educating them, caring for them, teaching them moral wisdom and avoidance of sin? If we don’t have children, we can help teach and care for other children. That is righteous and something that will have positive results. But one day your children will be on their own. We don’t want to confuse an objective with our purpose.

How about bringing the gospel to the lost in our community? That is a very good objective and something we ought to do. But, as good as that is, that is not the purpose of being here. I have no doubt that if we pray and work together we can accomplish the task of at least bringing the gospel to the whole community. Maybe even within a year. After all, Winfield is not that big of a community. And, if we should succeed in that, we could reach out to surrounding communities. But, the Lord is coming back one day and then evangelism will cease. But our purpose will live on. We don’t want to confuse an objective with our purpose.

We need to know our purpose. There was a time when Christians knew their purpose but it seems, if you review literature of faith for the last century or more, as if it's been lost.

The Baptist Catechism of 1689, which is based on the Bible, seeks to teach children and new adult converts the fundamentals of the faith. This was the same catechism that Charles Spurgeon promoted. He was not only the greatest Baptist preacher in history, but by most accounts, the greatest preacher of the whole church since the apostolic age. It was also adopted by the Philadelphia Baptist Association in 1742.

 

The second question of the catechism asks: “What is the chief end of man?” In other words, what is man’s purpose?

The answer is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

If you have your Bibles please turn to Isaiah 43:6-7.

I will say to the north, Give up,

and to the south, Do not withhold;

bring my sons from afar

and my daughters from the end of the earth,

7 everyone who is called by my name,

whom I created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.” [2]

 

The proper understanding of everything in life begins with God. Both the necessity of conversion and the direction of our lives after conversion cannot be understood unless we know why God created us.

In this passage in Isaiah, the Lord tells us plainly that this is the reason that he created us – for his glory.

The glory of God is spoken about over 1,000 times in the Bible. I would like to quickly review eight passages about the glory of God so that we can have a sense of its importance.

Paul mentions the glory of God in his previous letter:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.[3]

That is a vital and weighty command, isn’t it? He is saying that everything that we do should be to God’s glory! The apostle Peter says the exact same thing:

whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.[4]

David, a man after God’s own heart, had a prayer:

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!

Let your glory be over all the earth! [5]

 

I have said before that the best prayers are those that are in the Bible. This is a prayer that we can make our own. When we pray the prayers of Scripture, we will see that the focus is not on us, but on the Lord and for others. They help take our minds off of ourselves.

 

For the earth will be filled

with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord

as the waters cover the sea. [6]

 

This is a prophecy about the future. Do you see how the earth will end up? It will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord!

A verse that most of us have memorized to help us present the gospel is Romans 3:23 –

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God[7]

The very reason people need a Savior is because they have failed to glorify God! Also from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. [8]

All things are for his glory!

We recently looked at the eternal gospel, found in Revelation. Then, we took note that fearing God is part of the eternal gospel. But remember what else is part of the eternal gospel:

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7 And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” [9]

The eternal gospel consists of two things: fearing God and giving him glory. Next week we will see that giving God glory entails within itself, by necessity, a third experience that is wonderful in itself.

We have seen that the very purpose of life is to give God glory. How may we do this? The answer is found in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

 

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. [10]

Do you see that we have been called to be to the praise of his glory? This is our calling. This is our purpose – to be to the praise of God’s glory! We glorify God by being changed. We must not be content to be as we are. We allow the Lord to change us.

We considered this verse recently and we ought not to forget it:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. [11]

We are being transformed. We are even being transformed into the image of Christ. For this transformation to take place the Lord requires our cooperation. Primary in this cooperation is the use of the means that the Lord has provided -- the word of God and fearing him, which is the beginning of wisdom. We have considered these two matters a very short time ago[12], so there is no need to revisit them.

I wish to leave you with a word of encouragement so that you will live in the word of God and you will pursue your sanctification.

One of the obstacles that hinders our growth is discouragement. Simply knowing our purpose goes a long way in overcoming discouragement. Another source of discouragement is our own failure. Do not allow your own failures to arrest your transformation! The temptation is there.

But the Lord has made a way for you to press on. That way is called “the morning.” Each new day is more than a new day. It is the beginning of a new way. Forget about yesterday. Once you confess your sin, do not remember it. Of course, you will be aware of it. But, do not dwell upon it. Do not be discouraged because of your own weakness. The Lord has not only forgiven you if you simply confessed it to him, but he has granted a whole new beginning if you wake up!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

23 they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness. [13]

 

Take this promise of God and make it your own! Start your morning prayer with this passage! I have done so often. I find this one of the most encouraging passages in the entire Bible. God is faithful towards you in spite of your weaknesses! God is faithful towards you because of your weaknesses!

for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,

but the wicked stumble in times of calamity. [14]

 

You will fall seven times. And you will get back up! But, more! Jesus said that if we sin seven times seventy that we would be forgiven. (Actually, he said that we should forgive our brother if he sins against us seven times seventy. But this is because we are forgiven that way by the Father.)

Take the morning! Take the new beginning that God has given you! Live for the glory of God!

 

 


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 8:19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 43:6–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 10:31). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Pe 4:11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 57:11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Hab 2:14). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 3:23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 11:36). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Re 14:6–7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Eph 1:11–12). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (2 Co 3:18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (La 3:22–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Pr 24:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.