2 Corinthians 11:23
“I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.” (1 Corinthians 11:23)
I was asked concerning the young people from the United States. They said “ What’s with them? They’re so different.” And I said, “What kind of thing are you concerned about?” And they said, “Well, it seems that young people are concerned with the hours of work, what they can charge to the mission, how much they will get out of it when they can retire, how long do they vacation? These questions seem to be paramount, right up front in their questions.”
What is paramount in their concern? Let us ask, “How did compensation for pastors in the Apostolic era compare with other professionals at the time?” We don’t really know, do we? But make an educated guess. “How many vacations did Jesus take during his three years of public ministry?” Well, he did plan to go off for a prayer retreat. We wouldn’t call that a vacation because vacation means play. But at any rate, he started to go off and then 5,000 people descended on him and that was sort of aborted. Now let’s see, “How many hours was the average work week for slaves in the Roman era?” What did slaves have to do with apostles? The majority of Christians in the early church were slaves. You remember Paul always called himself a slave of Jesus Christ, and by implication we are as well. “At what age did the apostles retire and what were their retirement benefits?” I only know of one who retired, and that was after the age of 90. It was an involuntary retirement, and his benefits was an island all to himself. That was John on Patmos.
Which did Paul emphasize more? Rights or responsibilities? These questions aren’t to get an answer. We are just seeking to focus in on what the contemporary high priority concerns are, and I’m suggesting that we will never have excellence if we measure it by contemporary community standards, no matter what the community and no matter what the contemporary.
Tony Campolo tells a story of a pastor friend in downtown Philadelphia. The pastor had been listening to the introductions of a number of his young people who were attending prestigious universities, working toward prestigious degrees, with a prestigious vocation in mind. So the preacher got up and said, “When you were born, you cried. But everybody else was happy. When you die, they will all be crying. Will you be happy?”
And then he went on to say, “The answer to that question depended on whether you lived for titles or testimonies. When you die, he said, your titles won’t bring you much joy. But if the same people standing around your grave give testimony of the impact of your life in their lives. Then you’ll have joy.”
Olympic athletes were asked if there were a pill available which would guarantee a gold medal but also would guarantee that in five years they would be dead. Would they take the pill? 61% said yes. We have our heroes, too. Let me tell you about John Wesley. At the close of his long life estimated he had traveled 250,000 miles on horseback, which would be an average of 20 miles a day for 40 years. He preached 40,000 times, which is an average of three messages a day. He produced hundreds of books and pamphlets. He knew 10 languages. At 83, he was greatly annoyed because he could not write more than 15 hours a day without hurting his eyes. At 86, he was ashamed he could not preach more than twice a day. He complained in his journal he had an increasing tendency to lie in bed until 5:30 in the morning.
When CT Studd cleaned up on China, then he moved to Africa and after long years he was an old man. His friends and family in England wrote and urged him to come back. And he replied that he would not come back. He was going to stay and gain more ground for the King. And then he wrote this to them, “May the victors when they come, when these forts of folly fall, find my body near the wall.. Somebody has to scale the wall, or the fortress will never fall.”
How do you interpret the passage where Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against the church? One interpretation is that the church is under siege, but it’s going to be victorious. It’s going to be able to hold out against the powers of the enemy. But I’m with the other interpreters who hold that the gates of hell or the powers of hell will not be able to withstand the attack of the Church of Jesus Christ. That is a whole different mentality, a crash the gates mentality.
Jesus has given a promise to us. Not some tiny little mountain wilderness in the Near East bit of real estate, but the whole world and its people. The Father promised the Son, “I will give you the nations for your inheritance,” all the nations as a gift from the Father to Son. But we have to take it for Him. We have to take it nation by nation, people by people, stronghold by stronghold. Now. What are you going to choose? Are you going to choose a place where Hell’s resistance is great? Are you going to quit? Are you going to claim the promise of the Father to the Son? Stake out your possession.
Young man, get a clear vision. Go for it. Young woman, can’t settle for mediocrity? Go for it. Be a hero, take territory for God. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. You know there may be other people smarter than you are, more gifted, but who will never turn in an excellent performance because they’re fuzzy in their vision. Or they don’t really go for it. Afraid to pay the price? Excellence always costs.