Good morning my friends. Have you ever asked yourself the question, "Is it worth it"? It is a question that could be applied to many different situations in our life and usually marks a moment of frustration. It is a question that asks if the current pain is worth the prize at the end. It holds up the cost against the reward. It is not a question that we should easily dismiss or shrug off with guilt. It is a legitimate question that we should consider carefully.
Sometimes there are things in our lives that we are so positive of the goal that we do not need to ask that question. I guess this is how it was with the Apostle Paul. If there was ever a person in our great history who had the right to ask that question it was Paul. Would you not ask that question sitting in the bowels of a prison? Would you not ask that question as the stones struck you and you were left for dead? Would you not ask that question after your second ship wreck? How about after 5th or 6th time you were run out of town? Yet, this was Paul's philosophy of service:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
What was the goal and what was the prize? They must have been incredible things to cause Paul to stand up under everything he stood up under. The goal was to be faithful to that which he had been called which was to bring the gospel to the gentiles. Paul was not responsible for what they did with the gospel; he was to bring them the gospel and disciple those who chose to accept it. The prize? The prize is the same thing we are all looking forward to, "Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter my rest". Paul considered faithfulness to his goal to be well worth the prize of being welcome home with those words from Jesus. He then tells us that we who are mature should understand this and be living in the same manner:
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. vs 15-16
Let's not touch the last sentence today as it will open up a whole new discussion. Instead let us concentrate on this simple matter.
Why do we do what we do? Is it because we are called by God or is it because we were picked by man? The answer to that question will tell you a lot about your struggles. When we are convinced that what we are doing is God's will, desire, and calling for us, then all we want to do is please him. Our goal must be faithfulness to that thing until the end, no matter what we have to face. The goal is to be found faithful to the last day. The prize is the glad welcome home. Can there be a greater prize? What you are willing to be faithful to for Jesus you could never be faithful to for a man. A man cannot offer you what Jesus offers. No prize can compare. It is for you to determine from where you received your calling.
We are in an age where faithfulness is a fading reality. People change jobs ten times before they are 30 years of age. People slip in and out of marriages with the least sign of trouble. Some people will point to recent statistics to say it is getting better. It isn't. The difference is people aren't bothering to marry any more. It's less complicate to just live together so there are no lawyers to deal with when it is time to leave. Is it any wonder that Christian workers have no idea what it is to be faithful to their calling. At the first sign of hardship they give up. Some stick to it for maybe two or three trying periods but few have the vision of faithfulness as Paul did.
There are exceptions and we need to celebrate those exceptions. We need to lift them up so people can see some examples of faithfulness to the end. Everyone starts off well, but its the ending that really matters. We will look at the idea of examples tomorrow but for today I ask you to take some time to meditate on your calling. Who did it come from? Is your entire desire to please Jesus by being faithful to the end? Is it worth it? Do not throw that question away. How you respond to it may give you that extra strength you need to make it through today. I pray you are not facing any stonings or lashes today, but if you are I pray you can honestly say it is worth it.