Live Like Your Life Depends On It

This is the rough draft of part 4 of Pastor Steve’s message from the series, '“The Last Arrow” from February 24th, 2019. You can also watch the message here. We hope you find this helpful as you pursue your next steps in Christ.

“When we made preparations to move to the missions field, there were two things I needed to do that I hadn’t paid attention to in a long time.  One was my will. I wanted to make sure that if something happened to Keisa or I that we had a plan in place for our kids. That there would be family and friends that would surround them, love them and take care of them if we weren’t there.  Secondly, I needed to relook at my life insurance. For the longest time, we had very little in life insurance. But this decision and this move changed things. I talked with a couple of people I know that were reputable and put in place a policy that would last long into the college years of my kids.  I joke with my kids, as maybe you have with yours, “that I’m worth more dead than alive.”

So, here is the reality and I’m not trying to be morbid.  Here is some truth; we are all dying! We just are. And yes it’s important that we prepare for that day spiritually and materially for our families.  But how many people have you met that are alive, but are not fully living! We can be alive but not fully living. Does that make sense?

We know that we will die one day in the future, but each day we live, it’s not really living.  Not fully engaged. Not fully trusting. Just going through the motions of life hoping we get by and then one day we die and see Jesus.  Maybe we are not full living because we are paralyzed by something. Fear. Worry for our kids. Worry about our finances. Maybe we are not fully alive simply because we are focusing too much on the wrong things.  More overtime. More followers on social media. More stuff. I mean, is that really living fully alive?

In fact, here is a good way to find out  if you are living fully alive or just go through the motions.  Ask this question of yourself or if you are bold, ask those around you to answer this for you.  Here is the question. What is proof of my life?  In other words, if there was something to define my life, what would it be?  If I were to drop dead today, what would people say about me? ‘Wow, he was angry all the time.  She was so giving. She was so jealous. He was a great father.” That question and those answers prove if we are living.  

When we were living in Massachusetts we were sitting in a staff meeting.  And the leader challenged us to think of one thing that we could say to each person on that staff that was positive. Something we saw or experienced in their life.  A proof of life you could say. That’s hard to do right. But then it came around to me and one of the themes I heard was this. “Pastor Steve, I can really tell how much you love your family. What you say.  What you do. How you interact with them.” I was blown away. Humbled. Because I fail and I can do so much better. I know that I’m broken as a father and a husband. But I walked away from that gathering thinking, ‘Thank you God.  Help that always be a proof of my life.” If nothing else matters, help me live that way for my family.

We can be alive but not fully living. That is what we are going to talk about today here and in our groups. And to launch into this idea, there is this incredible story in the OT that challenges us to live our lives this way.  Their story is going to teach us this central truth. Live like your life depends on it.  Another way to say that is like this.  Live a life that is fully alive.  It’s a story that shows a very stark contrast of living and dying.  This is a story of desperation of four dying men who end up living deeply.  Who live like their lives depend on it.

Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.”  2 Kings 7:3-4

Do we get this picture?  These guys are dying from a flesh-rotting disease and sooner or later, they die. So, they come to some consensus. “If we stay here, we are going to die. If we go to the city, we could starve to death and die.  And if we go to our enemies, most likely they will kill us and we will die. But we could live. If it was a multiple choice question, it would look like this.  What is the best option if faced with these choices?  A. stay and die.  B. Go to the city and die.  C. Go to the enemy and most likely die.”  You’d be thinking, how about D?

At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans.  2 Kings 7:5

They decide, “We will probably die, but we are going to take a chance at living.  Let’s go down fully living! And catch this. The decision they made required the most risk and the most courage.  Remember that!  

When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, 6 for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” 7 So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.  2 Kings 7:6-7

In other words, four dying men walk into camp and there is no one there.  God performed a simple miracle that might seem ridiculous to us. But God emptied the camp.  It reminds me of a simple promise. “That with God nothing is impossible.”  Think about the odds that were stacked against them and God showed up.  Can I simply say this? No matter what you face in life, He’s still the same God.  He hasn’t changed. If He can do it for four men who had no options but God, can’t he do it for you?  God did his part. God will still do his part.

This brings us to a couple of key questions.   What is required of a fully alive life?  Living a life of faith and courage rooted in God.  Remember what they did? The most dangerous, riskiest and most courageous thing.  They crossed the enemy line. Not out of stupidity. Not out of their own morality or courage.  It was a bold step of faith rooted in God. Listen, our faith and courage MUST have it’s connection to God or it will falter.  Faith that is attached to anything or anyone else will disappoint. It’s full of courage put it all on the line kind of faith.

Another question is this.  Why would I want to live a fully alive life?  Here are some reasons.  One,God’s blessings happen when I live fully alive; full of faith and courage.  On the other side of risk and danger are God’s blessings.  On the other side of you stepping out in faith is God showing up.  Which means we have to be willing to take steps those steps of faith.  We have to be willing to listen to what God says and risk it all. That typically means, just like these lepers, we have to pass through some challenging moments.  We have to make some faith filled, death defying decisions to live fully alive. God will do his part if we do our part.

“It’s our desperation that creates openness to the provision of God.”  Erwin McManus

This seems to be a recurring theme throughout scriptures and the lives of Jesus followers.  God many times allows desperation in our lives to do something through our lives. And in spite of the challenges what do we know?  “God works for the good in all things for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  He wants to work good in our lives, and many times, he uses the moments of desperation to do that.  Why? Desperation causes us to risk it. Desperation causes us to put our faith in God more than in ourselves. Desperation creates a greater openness for him to provide. Desperation deepens our courage in God.

I was on FB a few weeks ago and I read a story of a young man I know.  I’ve known him for years. He’s been active in his faith and in the local church.  We did some ministry together on some missions trips as well. He posted something recently that spoke of this desperation.  I wanted to share it with you today. “January 2019 will forever be one of the most unforgettable months of my life for many reasons. I was supposed to start a new job January 7th, 3 days before I was supposed to begin that new job I found out I was being disqualified from the position for a traffic incident 5 years prior. This all came after I had left my previous two jobs I had been working. Anger, sadness, confusion all emotions that were running through me.  In that moment it would have been so easy to give in and be angry with God. After all, why would he present this new opportunity only for it to fall apart after I left my previous jobs and had nothing to fall back on. I had a choice to make and I decided to cling to these words.”  And these are the words of a worship song, based on scripture:   “I count on one thing, the same God that never fails, will not fail me now.  In the waiting, the same God who’s never late, is working all things out. Yes I will lift you high in the lowest valley.  Yes I will sing for joy when my heart is heavy.”

“This song became an anthem for me during this trial to see if I would follow through on trusting in God’s plan and timing.  Through this “negative in my life” and sadness, I experienced God open yet another door. It turned out that me quitting my job was how I would find out about a better position.   A job that offers me more of everything. It’s so amazing to see how my prayers for a new opportunity were being answered just not on the path that I thought it would be on. He never ceases to amaze me with how he works things together for our good and brings people into our lives exactly when we need them the most.  January was a whirlwind but I’m pumped to see what the future holds. I choose to praise the name of all names that nothing can stand against.”

Great story isn’t it?  What is he speaking about?  A moment of desperation that opened him up more to his Creator.  With faith and courage, his Creator God met him in that desperation.  Here are my questions. What is going calling you to risk right now?  Where does he want to have courage?  Think about that for awhile.  

The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp, entered one of the tents and ate and drank. Then they took silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.  2 Kings 7:8

Can you blame them for doing this?  No way! After all, they were dying.  They had been disowned. Rejected. Left to fend for themselves.  Now, they have a whole camp to themselves. Whatever they can take or eat.  Whatever they can do to make their leprosy lives better. They aren’t doing anything we wouldn't do in the same position.  But then something happens in side of them. It’s a game changer.

Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us.  Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.” 10 So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, 2 Kings 7:9-10

So, let’s paint a clear picture here.  They step out in faith, have some courage, and what happens?  God does something HUGE for them. They then enjoy that miracle that God did for them.  Then something clicks inside of them. “This is good. This is great. Thank you, God. But, we can’t just keep it to ourselves.   

Get this.  They go tell the very people who abandoned them.  The very people who looked down at them. The people who kicked them outside of the gates of their city.  And they say, “Hey, God has done something pretty amazing and we thought you should be a part.” Take what you want.    The dying lepers. The mistreated lepers. take the position, ‘hey, there is more to this life than us.’ Let’s read that verse again together this time.

Then they said to each other, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. 2 Kings 7:9

Just soak on that verse for a moment.  This one verse, locked into the middle of this story, isn’t that what Jesus was all about?  It’s what he taught. It’s how he lived his life. It’s how he calls Jesus’ followers to live.  So, the implications for us in this room that call themselves Christ followers is significant. Back to our question for today.    Why would I want to live a fully alive life?  Two, My life and the lives of others depend on it.  Really?  Yes, if you see what these men did.  Yes, if you believe what Jesus did for you.  In this series, we have already established the fact that God wants great things for you.  But here’s the kicker. Striking the last arrow. Taking the risk. Crossing the enemies line.  Having courage in our moments of desperation. It’s just as much about others as it is about ourselves.  The lives of others depend on us living our life fully alive. Full of faith and courage.

You see, this is where a story from the OT joins together with the life of Jesus in the gospels.  Because at the end of the day, if you are a Christ follower, what you have, is more about others than you.  Listen to Jesus.

“When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”  Luke 12:48 ESV

Another way this verse is translated is this.  “To whom much is given, much is required.” So, at minimum, no matter what you have, if you are a Jesus follower, the standards and expectations are higher.  I live this life to honor God so that others can see Christ in me. Experience Christ through. Jesus follower, here is your calling.

“I will live a life that is fully alive because the lives of others depend on it.”  

I believe that.  We live in a world that is desperate to see what fully alive is.  So, let’s play this out a bit.  Our story of life change, it’s not just for us.  How God is putting back together your family piece by piece, is not just for you.  How you took the step of baptism, people need to see. When God answers your prayer in an incredible way, someone needs to see that connection.  The resources of money, of time and ability, should be given away to serve others. This church that God is growing, it’s not just for us, is in part, about who is not here.

My family has been watching Lost and we are into season 4.  One of the key characters is this Brit called Charlie. Before crashing on the island with the others, Charlie was this rock musician.  He struggled with identity issues and he had a drug addiction. On the island, he became a new man. He willingly dives down into this underwater chamber to help his friends.  And he knows, most likely he will lose his life. Here is that moment.

If you watched Lost, that was a sad moment.  Charlie could have gotten out, maybe? But there was something inside of him that was willing to risk it all for others.  There was a theme, all throughout Lost, where sacrificing something for others played out. Now, that’s just a t.v. show. But here is reality.  Isn’t that what Christ did for us? He was willing to risk it all. It wasn’t under water like Charlie but it was on a cross. And in turn, doesn’t he challenge us to live in a similar way?  For many of us, it will most likely never be a life and death situation. But we are called to make the most of life particularly for the benefit of others.

“I will  live a life that is fully alive because others desperately want to know what that kind of life is really like.”

We live in a world that is looking for hope . A world that is looking for someone who will stand up and live.  That will not play games. Who will be shoot straight. Someone who says with their words and actions, “hey, I don’t have it all figured out, but this is what Christ has done. This is what Jesus is doing in my life.  And what Jesus has done for me, I’m living fully alive. I want to leave nothing for tomorrow or the next life. That speaks volumes!

So, let’s take this to the how to’s in our life.  Here is the question. How do I live fully alive?  Deciding that what God does through me is more important than what God does for me.  In other words, what God does in and through my life for others, is more significant that what he gives me.  Again, isn’t that what we see in the lives of these four men? They were grateful for what God did FOR them. Then they took that blessing saw that God could do something THROUGH them for others.  They realized that what God did for them was secondary to what God could do through them.

Now, no matter where you may be in our faith with Christ today, this is a huge turning point.  If we are going to grow spiritually. If we are going to have an impact in this life. If we are going to live fully alive.  Then there is a pivot point that says that whatever God does FOR me takes a back seat for what God can do THROUGH me. That’s huge!  God gave this to me and did this for me so that I can live a fully alive life for others.

For me, when I sat down and think this this through.  What does that really mean? I know it’s Biblical and it sounds good, but how?  So, I took the words “For Me” and wrote them on the left side of my paper. Then on the right side of my paper I wrote the words, ‘Through Me.”  What is the real difference? What does that look like in our lives? I want to give you some of those words today. In fact, right the down if you don’t mind.  

For me, means my benefit.  Through me means, others benefit.  For me means, I live.  Through me means, others live.  For me means, my story. Through me means, your story.  For me means, holding onto.  Through me means, letting it go.  For me means, possessions.  Through me means, possibilities.  For me means, private faith.  Through me means, public faith.  For me means, going to church.  Through me means, being the church.

Here is the question I started with today.  Where is it in your life that God wants you to have courage right now?  Maybe it means trusting him to help you fund a missions trip to Costa Rica.  Maybe it’s quitting a job and stepping out in faith like the story earlier? Maybe it’s surrendering some anxiety/worry and trusting that God has your back.  Maybe it’s the courage to break up with who you are dating and take some time to regroup with God? Maybe it’s fostering or adopting a child? Maybe it’s getting help for your addiction?

Here’s a similar question.  What is it that God wants to do through you right now?  Maybe God wants you to begin to tell your story so that others can have hope in Christ?  Maybe it’s not just attending church but being the church. Being more committed. Maybe it's serving in the church so that others can experience Jesus.  It’s serving students, serving kids or welcoming guests? Maybe God has blessed you financially and he’s challenging you to step up. To step up and help our church move to the next level and help others?

Maybe God wants you to be bolder in your faith.  Not obnoxious but not on the downlow either. More boldness at the gym.  At your office. On social media. Because he wants to reach people in your life and you are the key.  Maybe he’s asking you to forgive someone who hurt you deeply. Maybe you have no idea how they will respond.  Maybe you don’t think they deserve it. But your forgiveness could be key to God doing something new in you and in their life.  In a few moments, we are going to take a time to think through that question.

But today is our baptism Sunday too.  What if God wants you to take that step of courage today?  I think baptism often gets lost in our traditions and religious views and we don’t see it’s true significance.  Throughout history, Jesus followers have been baptized to identify with Jesus. For centuries, baptism has been the outward expression of belonging.  Think of it this way. Maybe God wants to do something in you through baptism, but maybe there is someone here today that God will reach because you take that step of faith?  

What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.’  Acts 22:16 NLT

I love those words aimed at Paul.  Let me give context. ‘Hey Paul, your life has been turned upside down by Christ.  Jesus has changed you inside, so go public. What are you waiting on dude?’ Love it!  Here’s my question to many of you Jesus followers. ‘What are you waiting for?’ Many of you are Jesus followers but have never taken this step of faith.  You have experienced a relationship with Christ that has brought life to your life. Why not take the step of outward proof of what God has done in your soul.

We are going to continue a NEW tradition that we started late last year.  We are going to ask you to make that decision to be baptized today. Not next week.  Not in a few weeks at the beach. Not after you rationalize what you friends might think.  Today. Outside, as we finish our day. That’s courage. That’s fatih.

‘Uh, but Steve, I didn’t come prepared to do this.  I don’t have the clothes. I have lunch afterwards. My friends are here.’  Listen, real friends will understand. Lunch, you won’t starve. But check this out, we’ve got you covered.  We’ve been planning for this day for weeks even if didn’t come prepared to do this today. We know some of you want to respond to God’s leading right now.  So, we have your back! We have extra towels, TPC shirts, shorts, toiletries, etc. We have you covered; literally. We will give you the chance to change.

Here me, we want nothing to get in the way today.  I can’t force you to do this, but some of you know, this is your day.    What if you are just looking for a new beginning? And this step of courage, baptism, is the beginning of a new chapter in your life?   What if God wants to do something new in your marriage and together, you both get baptized? What if God wants you to step up and show your kids what it means to have faith?  Maybe you did it before but you did it because your friends did? Maybe you have convinced yourself that you have to get your life together first. That’s not what Jesus requires.  Today, if you are a Jesus follower, it’s time to be courageous and take your step of baptism.

Would you all stand with me?  We are going to sing one last song today.  And this song is a power expression of not living dead lives but fully living.  So as we sing today, ask God what your step of courage is. Honestly say, God what is my step of faith?  What is my risk today? I’m also going to ask those of you who signed up to be baptized to exit and get ready.  We have a team ready for you. But for those of you who are feeling moved but didn’t plan on it, I’m asking you to during this song, to go get ready.  We have a team ready for you. We have the clothes and towels. We will help you with your kids. Don’t let anything get in the way today. Take the step of faith/courage. Let’s pray.”