Series: For Edification
Message – Not Lagging in Diligence
Not Lagging in Diligence
We’ve been talking about personal edification and ministering to others towards their edification. The word edify meaning what?- To build up.
What are we building up in ourselves and our brothers? Christ!
Last week I taught you about examining your building and proving the steadfastness and strength of your growth in Christ – ending with the statement, “Examine yourselves, prove yourselves…do you not know yourselves that Christ IS IN YOU!”
I ended by encouraging you to test this regularly – not to see if He really is – but to see if it is obvious that He truly is!
This week we are going to address laziness of spirit.
Turn to Romans 12
I will begin by telling you some small stories – some snippets of Christian history with which we can compare our own actions along side this passage…
The year was 165AD –
The place was the Roman Empire during the reign of Marcus Aurelius.
A sweeping plague called the Antonine Plague devastated all of Rome. The death toll enormous – estimates place it at about 5 million. In some places it was so high that Marcus Aurelius describes caravans hauling the dead out of the cities.
This plague lasted for 15 years wiping out nearly a third of the Roman population.
This plague was followed by yet another, little more than 80 years later and it was afterwards named the Plague of Cyprian (SIP-rean) (who was the Bishop of Carthage).
During this second plague, people are said to have been dying to the tune of over 5,000 per day.
Rome was completely incapable of dealing with these epidemics, the resulting sick people and mass death. During each pandemic, government officials and the wealthy fled the cities for the countryside to escape contact with those who were infected. Theirs was a time of stoicism in which the great majority thought little of compassion.
On the other hand – the Christian community remained behind, transforming themselves into a great force of caretakers.
Instead of fleeing in fear, “followers of ‘The Way’” spent themselves on the sick and did ao no matter whether the sick they attended were fellow Christians or pagan – they even cared for those who had persecuted them – evidently, some reports have the Christians supplying food for over 1,500 people on a daily basis and in Antioch of Syria the destitute being fed reached upwards to 3,000 a day.
In addition to this, they buried both their own fellow Christians and those dead pagans whose families had left them to die without aid.
They would wash the sick, providing water to drink…food to eat and consoling the dying.
They were so effective that Julian attempted to establish a type of welfare system based upon the care provided by Christians during the epidemic – though it failed because that kind of care can only work through love – not dictates from the state.
In the end the work of these Christians… at the risk of their own lives… saved a huge number of people and the world took notice!
They realized that Christians possessed an inner strength that enabled them to minister to the sick and dying – even at their own risk and peril and love enough to do it!
While others fled the cities – Christians rallied and flocked to them.
As a happy result, Christians who survived became immune and were therefore all the more capable of ministering to the sick and dying.
One scholar wrote of these Christians that they were a “whole force of miracle workers to heal the dying”…and as if on cue…. just as Jesus said they would – Tertullian reported and many of the pagan in Rome said, “Look how they love one another”!
On Easter Sunday in 260 AD, Bishop Dionysius of Corinth praised the efforts of the Christians, many of whom had died while caring for others. He said:
“Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves, and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains.”
These were just two examples of the PROOF that Christ was IN the early Christians…and there are many more.
When a devastating plague swept across most of the European world in the 3rd century – Christians were the only ones running TO the danger rather than away from it!
People could be seen casting sick family members into the streets to die alone for fear of contracting the disease themselves.
To the early Christian, trusting God meant more than a teary-eyed testimony about “the time I came to trust the Lord.” It meant believing that even if obedience to God entailed great suffering, God was trustworthy to bring a person through it.
Justin Martyr had this to say about Christian love: “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.”
Clement, describing the person who has come to know God, wrote, “He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain.”
The early church trusted God because they lived in awe of His majesty and wisdom.
Felix, a Christian lawyer in Rome and a contemporary of Tertullian, put it this way: “God is greater than all our perceptions—He is infinite, immense. Only He truly understands His true greatness; our hearts are too limited to really understand Him. We are making a worthy estimation of Him when we say that He is beyond estimation…. Anyone who thinks he knows the magnitude of God, diminishes His greatness.”
The supreme example of the absolute trust in God the early church exemplified was their acceptance of persecution. From the time of the Emperor Trajan (around A.D. 100) until the Edict of Milan was issued in 313, the practice of Christianity was illegal within the boundaries of the Roman Empire. Being a Christian was a crime punishable by death. But the Roman officials didn’t generally hunt out Christians. They ignored them unless someone formally accused a person of being one. As a result, persecution was intermittent.
Christians in one town might suffer horrible atrocities and death while Christians in a nearby area would be untouched.
It was completely unpredictable.
Yet, every Christian lived daily with a death sentence hanging over his head.
As Origen told the Romans: “When God gives the Tempter permission to persecute us, we suffer persecution. And when God wishes us to be free from suffering, even though surrounded by a world that hates us, we enjoy a wonderful peace. We trust in the protection of the One who said, ‘Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.’ And truly He has overcome the world. Therefore, the world prevails only as long as it is permitted to by Him who received power from the Father to overcome the world. From His victory we take courage. Even if He should again wish us to suffer and contend for our faith, let the enemy come against us. We will say to them, ‘I can do all things through Christ Jesus our Lord Who strengthens me.’”
These were not empty words nor words spoken easily by a man never touched by oppression. While just a teenager himself, Origen lost his father to persecution, and he himself eventually died from torture and imprisonment at the hands of the Romans. Yet, with unshakable confidence he told the Romans, “Eventually, every form of worship will be destroyed except the religion of Christ, which alone will stand. In fact, it will one day triumph, for its teachings take hold of men’s minds more and more each day.”
Rom 12:1-21 NKJV
“(1) I beseech (call upon you, admonish you & exhort) you therefore, brethren, THROUGH the the compassion God shows for us in our sufferings by doing so, that you present your bodies (whole being – soma – not Sarx) a living (and constant) sacrifice (offering), holy (blameless), well-pleasing to God, it is your reasonable and intelligent worship of Him.
(2) And do not fashion yourselves after this world – stop allowing yourselves to be molded into and conformed by their external ways, cares, temptations and desires, but be metamorphosed (completely changed and matured) by a renovation in the way that you think, feel and desire – renewing of your mind, that you may examine and put to the proof that which is good and acceptable and perfect in regard to God’s will.
(3) For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with moderation and clarity, as God has distributed to each one their individual portion of faith.
(4) For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, (or… “For we do not all have the same function”…meaning, you have enough faith alloted to you for what you were called and commissioned to do.)
(5) so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
(6) Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;
(7) or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching;
(8) he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
(9) Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
It’s interesting that the Greek word translated here as “without hypocrisy” was adapted by the New Testament writers from a word that meant “Unskilled or inexperienced at acting”.
(10) Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;
Loving with that natural affection that characterizes members of the same family.
(11) not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
Not slow, tardy, slothful or lazy, but diligent and with earnest effort. Be like a pot of boiling water and bubble over with ardor and fever in your voluntary service and devotion to the Lord.
(12) rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;
Exaltant in your great hope, patient (hupo= under meno= to remain) in tribulation (mostly persecutions – which Christians are not only NOT exempt from but are particularly subject o in this life. We are the recipients of the world’s scorn. They meet the testimony of our faith and lives with unfriendly hostility and much oppression.) continuing steadfast and faithful in prayer.
(13) distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Koinoneo – become a participant in the needs of your brothers and sisters. SO NOT IDOLY WATCH – but enter into their need as your own and give (all things in common). 1Jn. 3:17
Concerning kindness and liberal generocity – follow and press hard after, pursue it with earnestness and diligence in order to obtain such a character, go after it with the desire and intent of obtaining it!
(14) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Speak well of those who pursue with repeated acts of enmity, praying for the welfare and NEVER wish evil to come to them. Never desire their ruin nor curse them.
(15) Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
(16) Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
Don’t categorize yourself or others in terms of social, political, religious or financial status as though one is somehow superior to another. Remember the words of David, Psa. 62:9,
“Men are only a vapor; exalted men, an illusion. On a balance scale, they go up; together they weigh less than a vapor.” All such illusions of big me – little you are the products of this demented world. They are childish – do not denigrate yourself with such petty thoughts.
(17) Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
(18) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
(19) Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. – 1Peter 4:19
(20) ACCORDINGLY – “IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM; IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP COALS OF FIRE ON HIS HEAD.”
This idiom meant to excite in him feelings of regret and was probably used by Paul with a dual reference to a common practise of lending live coals from a fire to a neighbor whose hearth had gone out. They would carry a properly insulated pan upon their head into which the live coals were placed. It was a humbling experience…not unlike the woman who let her oil run out and the stench of the flax (wick) filled the house and spilled out into the street.
By doing this kindness to your enemy you will….
(21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!”
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
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