Sermon Titled “Advancing The Kingdom of God” – by guest speaker Buddy Rathmell – Sunday 29th June, 2014
Last weekend’s sermon was opened with the question, “Have you ever dreamed of being a hero?” Guest speaker Buddy Rathmell suggested that we all, at some point in our lives, have dreamed about being a hero of some type. When he was much younger, Buddy rescued his brother from a near-drowning incident at Yosemite Falls. He describes how he loved his brother so much that he risked his own life for him, yet when it came to much smaller and seemingly insignificant things, his love and generosity wavered.
The point being made here, is that heroic deeds do not have to be big, bold, and impressive. God has equipped each one of us with unique and specific gifts that are to be used for the purpose of advancing His kingdom, and these gifts, when put to use, might look like: a small act of kindness, a silent prayer, a charitable donation, or a lending hand. Note that none of these things are particularly “heroic” by human standards, but by God’s standard they are.
God also gave to each of us a “free will” to choose, and a “voice”to teach. In Matthew 5:19 God tells us that those who faithfully practice His commands, and teaches them to others, will be called “great in the kingdom of heaven.” Thus, in order to be great (or heroic) Christians, we simply need to obey and share the word of God. In a world where self-gratification is highly valued however, the Christian lifestyle isn’t exactly appealing.
Furthermore, God tells us that we are to seek wisdom, for we live in a world which forces us to walk a fine line between good and bad. Decisions must be made daily – decisions that will invariably be either wise, or foolish. A foolish decision, according to Proverbs 1:7, is one that is made with a firm resistance to any type of counseling or instruction. Fortunately, we have a book that has everything we could possibly need to know to guide us through any type of life situation (look through the book of Proverbs for starters).
So far we have learned that to be a hero in God’s kingdom, we are a) to use the gifts that God gave us, b) we are to practice and teach His commands, and c) we must seek His wisdom. There is more though – to be truly effective in helping to advance the kingdom of God, we are asked to put aside our own concerns and focus instead on taking care of the needs of others. One way to put this into an easier-to-accept perspective, is to consider the statement “My hangnail is bigger than your cancer.” In other words, we often forget that our crises are not nearly as devastating as some of those being faced by others.
The bible however, acknowledges that we are nonetheless “human,” and that the many trials we encounter throughout our lifetimes will inevitably cause us to worry. Still, we are required to continue doing all the things that God has called us to do – those things mentioned above. The key is to divert our thoughts away from ourselves, and look to God instead.
Think about the disciples (Matthew 14:22-36) when they were in their boat and being rocked about by rough waves. As they saw Jesus walking towards them, on the water, they were terrified by what they thought was a ghost. Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus replied, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, and he began to walk towards Jesus, on the water! That is, until he took his eyes off Jesus (to momentarily look at the wind and waves), and he immediately began to sink. He cried out to Jesus to save him.
The word of God implores us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, so that through the most trying of times we will find the faith we need to keep pressing forward, and to keep advancing the kingdom of God. Dr. J. Robert Clinton estimates that of the 800 leaders mentioned in the bible, only about a third of these finished well, and here’s what he said they all had in common:
- They maintained a personal vibrant relationship with God right up to the end.
- They maintained a learning posture and could learn from various kinds of sources—life especially.
- They manifested Christ-likeness in character as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.
- Truth was lived out in their lives so that convictions and promises of God were seen to be real.
- They left behind one or more ultimate contributions.
- They walked with a growing awareness of a sense of destiny and saw some or all of it fulfilled.
All of these behaviors can best be summed up in the following way:
- “When we’re using our God-given gifts, God is most glorified, we are most fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is most significantly advanced.”
Under these circumstances, as defined by God’s standards and criteria, anyone can be a hero!
About Buddy Rathmell: Buddy and his wife Jen founded the non-profit organization StopSlavery.org on Oct 5, 2009. Their goal (among others) is to be directly involved in the work of fighting human trafficking. If you have a heart for this area of ministry, and would like to partner up with them, please consider donating to their cause. You can find more information here.