Message for Sunday, January 24, 2021 The Revs. Megan and David Collins
Over these past few months, the internet has brought us all kinds of new stories that have kept us engaged. We have heard heroic stories of people rising up to help one another. Stories have filled our news feed of how things are unfolding around the world. Yesterday was a day full of historic moments and speeches. But there is a specific kind of story that has come up a lot over the past ten months. And it really shows our level of maturity and wisdom as a people. These are the stories about people who went to the bathroom during a Zoom call . . . and forgot to turn off their camera. These stories are the ones we have all clicked through online to read. (Look how grown up and mature we have all become through this time). As silly as these stories are, there is actually an important lesson in them for us today. Because what we learn from these stories is this: Just when you think no one is watching you, they are.
Of course on a Zoom call this can be fixed with the click of a button, but in your life it’s not that simple. Someone in your life is watching you to see what you will do. Someone is looking at the choices you make and waiting to see how you will respond. You might think your decisions don’t impact someone else. Just when you think no one is watching you, they are. Your life is influencing someone else.
We are in a month-long focus on perseverance. A couple of weeks ago we talked about our cloud of witnesses. The cloud of witnesses are the ones who encourage you on your walk of faith. They are the people you look to to be inspired and encouraged. Today, let’s take another step. You are the “cloud of witnesses” for someone else. This means your persevere isn’t just about you. It’s also about the ones who are watching you. They aren’t just watching to see if you get to the finish line. They are watching to see how you get there.
The way you get through things matters, a lot.
With that in mind let’s take a look at a passage from 2 Timothy chapter 4, versus 1- 8. As we read, I’d like you to imagine something with us. Imagine that we are one team gathered into a locker room, halfway through a brutal game. We are exhausted. Sweat is running down our foreheads. But there is a glimmer of hope that we can get through this game if we work together. The Apostle Paul pulls us into a huddle for a pep talk before we go back out on the field.
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully."
What does Paul tell his listeners to do? Proclaim the message even if it is a difficult time. Keep sharing about Jesus as you encourage people, teach people and have patience with people. Do the work of an evangelist and carry out your ministry. In other words, share the gospel of Jesus Christ as you persevere, in the way you persevere. Then Paul goes on:
"As for me, I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Paul says he has already finished what he had to do. He has fought the fight, finished the race and kept his faith. But we still have work to do. There is no one else to do it for us. We can’t pass on this ministry to someone we think is more qualified or better suited or has a bigger platform. It’s up to us. Then the huddle breaks us, and Paul sends us back out onto the field for the second half. This is our pep talk from Paul in the letter 2 Timothy.
Getting to the end of the game and persevering through the things that are still ahead of us are not about you simply getting through. It’s not about doing whatever you want to make things easier for you. Perseverance isn’t about being comfortable. It’s about the people who are watching you.
The way we persevere is our witness.
God calls you to a perseverance ministry. Someone, right now, is watching you. They are reading what you write online or listening to what you talk about or the choices you make. He might be someone in your family or she might be a coworker. He could be your neighbor or a friend. It could be someone on your social media feed that you forgot even exists is carefully reading the things you post.
Someone is listening to you. That person might even be taking their cues from you and making decisions based on how you make yours. You get up each day and persevere thinking it’s about you making it through the day but it turns out it’s much more than that. Your perseverance is your witness. This brings us to the critical question we must ask ourselves:
When people see you persevere, do they see Jesus?
When the people watching you right now see the things you say, the choices you make and the way you treat other people, do they see Jesus? When they see how you continue to get through this pandemic, when they watch to see how you will move forward from this time of division, when they look to see how you treat the people around you, do they see Jesus? Do they see you looking out for others or doing what it takes to get ahead? Are you doing, as Paul writes, the work of an evangelist as you run the race before you?
The way you live right now is pointing to something. The things you say are showing the people around you something. Someone in your life knows you go to church and they are watching to see if that faith you say you have is making a difference in how you live. They are listening carefully to see if going to church makes a difference. They are looking to you to see who this Jesus people talk about really is. Your perseverance is your witness and it can be your ministry.
When people see you persevere, do they see Jesus?