Date: January 22, 2012

Bible Text: Colossians 1:24-29 |


Please turn in your Bibles to the book of Colossians, chapter 1. This morning I want to preach a message that is applicable to the New Year. Co­lossians, chapter 1, starting with verse 24 is my text. “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory….” What’s the mystery? Christ in you. “…Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may pres­ent every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”

Now please turn to Romans 1:14. The title of my message is, “Are You Ready?” The Apostle Paul often used the word “ready,” and he did here in Romans chapter 1 verse 14, when he says, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” I’ve heard many preachers quote this and say they are ready to preach, they are ready to lead a church; but in reality, they mean they are willing. In the south, there is a phrase that people say, “I’m fixin’ to do something.” They’re not fixing anything! Sometimes we don’t use terms properly. Preachers and Christians say, “I’m ready,” when in reality, they are only willing.

Let me illustrate. When I was a junior in high school, I went to a school on the south side of Chicago with over 4,000 boys in it. My very first play on the varsity football team was to block out a guy by the name of Dick Butkus. Now, most mature men know that name because he was probably the best defensive player in the National Football League, and he had been an All-American every year in high school. I played halfback; he played linebacker on defense. The quarterback said, “Are you ready?” Of course, I said, “Yes, I’m ready.” And in my mind, I’m a pretty positive guy. I thought I was ready. “He’s just a man.” That’s what we are supposed to say, right? “He’s just another man.” And I went to block him with all the confidence in the world; but before I knew it, I was flying through the air. He literally would defend with his hands, and he took my head and flung me up in the air. I had a kink in my neck for weeks. Now, I said I was ready, but I wasn’t ready. I never was ready to block him. I was only willing.

Another illustration is when I began to run again as an adult. I’m sure some of you can relate to this. When I was young, I loved athletics. I loved to run. I would run through Chicago, the longer the better. I didn’t get winded; it was just enjoyment. I heard on the news yesterday that running gives you a high just like drugs, and I think it did that for me. I used to love to run. But when I started pastoring this church, I felt I didn’t have time to exercise; and I got fatter and fatter and softer and softer. Then I felt that I better exercise some. Now at that time, my son Jeff, and Becky and Debbie, were running the lake, and I was “cracking the whip.” They were running 6-8 laps around the lake. I honestly thought in my mind—even though I was 50 pounds overweight—that I could run 6-8 laps around the lake and get back in shape. I’ll never forget, I started by Pastor Damron’s house, and by the time I got to that first corner, I was dying, but my pride kept me going. There were no dorms then, and when I got back to the corner where the men’s dorm is now, there were a lot of trees. I stopped where no one could see me and gasped for air. I stumbled through the trees, and then I said, “Well, I’m going to get going.” I came to the hill and couldn’t do it. I was willing, but I wasn’t ready.

I think a lot of resolutions at this time of the year are like that. A lot of Christians, rightfully so, say, “I’m going to change my life,” and we ought to. We ought to never be satisfied. I’m not satisfied with my life. We say, “I am going to have a better marriage,” or, “My children are going to be better children.” “I’m going to be a better father or a better mother, “ or, “I’m going to keep my budget.” Or, it might even be a diet or a better soulwinner. “I’m going to do it.” We’re willing, but we’re not ready.

Turn with me to Luke chapter 22, verse 33. Here, Peter said, “I am ready.” But he wasn’t ready. “And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.” If you know this portion of the Bible, he almost rebuked our Lord and said, “Don’t worry about me. I’m ready!” He thought he was ready, but he meant he was willing. It didn’t take long to find out he wasn’t ready. We read the sad story of how he warmed his hands at the enemy’s fire, and they said, “Aren’t you one of them, one of His disciples?” And he said, “No, I’m not.” And somebody else said, “Aren’t you one of those?” “No, I’m not.” Now, he said he was ready for death, but he wasn’t ready for some ridicule. A girl came and said, “Your speech betrays you. You are one of them.” And so he changed his speech and started cursing and swearing.

Let me just put a parenthesis in here—when I’m debating with somebody and he starts cursing and swear­ing, I know he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. That’s what happened. Because he was lying, because he didn’t have the truth to back him up, he started cursing and swearing. He was willing, but he wasn’t ready. There’s a whole lot of difference, isn’t there? People stand and say, “I’m ready,” but they are not. It’s so sad. People sometimes will point at others and say, “What’s wrong with them? They are quit­ters!” “What’s wrong with them; why don’t they do their job?” You know, when people get that way and start pointing at others, saying, “I’m going to do it,” it scares me. I always ask myself, “Ready, or willing?”

We always need more bus workers. We always need more drivers. We always especially need more adult work­ers. Well, when somebody says, “I want to be a bus worker,” he needs to ask himself, “Am I ready for the devil to attack? Am I ready for people to hate me for doing good?” You say, “That can’t be.” Oh, yes, that’s exactly what happens. Are you ready for kids whom you love and have so much hope for, to quit? Are you ready to grind through the long, cold winter? Are you ready to give your Saturdays and Sundays? Are you ready to pray to keep strength? Are you ready to visit during the week? Are you ready to keep your life clean? You see, the point I’m trying to make is that there are many more who are willing than ready.

Back to our text, Colossians 1:24. I want to talk to you about being ready, and the first thing Paul says is that he is ready to suffer. “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” He says, “I’m happy. I have suffered. I am willing to suffer. I am ready to suffer. I am suffering for His body, the church.” It breaks a pastor’s heart when a member is not willing to suffer for God’s church. When things get rough, they quit. When things get tough, they say, “Well, I guess I’m just not of this stripe.” When the offerings are down, they wouldn’t think of helping to make it up.

We live in such an affluent, soft society that most can’t stand inconvenience. They call that “suffering.” It’s so sad that people would say, “I’m ready to suffer. If the country goes to the devil, if nobody else stands, I’ll stand.” But they can’t even lead their wives, let alone stand in that way. “I’m ready to rear my children. I’m ready to be the man of the home. I’m ready.” Most aren’t, though. Most will talk. Most want to look good. Most are willing. I underline most; but the majority aren’t ready. People today call inconvenience suffering, and they can’t really face suffering. But you know Job’s greatness only came when suffering came upon him, when he endured that suffering.

Now again, when you read the Bible, it’s to be applied to your own life. Job lost all his wealth. He lost everything, and there was no welfare. He lost every one of his children, and his wife turned on him. He lost his health. He sat in that garbage dump with boils just oozing. It was then that Job showed his real colors. You see, no man has an opportunity to show his greatness until he has an opportunity to suffer. Nobody chooses suffering, but you’ll show what you are when it comes time to suffer. We use this quote—you’ve heard it over and over again— “The test of a man’s charac­ter is what it takes to stop him.” Any old ship can sail when there’s no storm. Any old rotten piece of wood can float downstream. But the only real test is how you are going to react when real problems come.

Turn to II Corinthians chapter 11. How are you going to react when trials come? When temptations come? When people misunderstand you, or deliberately make false state­ments about you? The Apostle Paul was willing and ready to suffer, and he suffered much. Let’s start reading at verse 23. “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more;…” Now, he’s making an argument to people who were fighting against him. “…in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;

Notice again just the one point. He said, “Five times I was beaten with the Roman cat-o’-nine-tails. Josephus, the secular historian, said it was very common when a man was through with those 40 lashes, that he would be hanging with his innards and his blood in a pool below him, dead. Five times this happened. If you multiply it out, he had 195 scars of the lashes on his back. But he didn’t quit. He didn’t say, “It’s time to get out of the ministry.” The vast majority of my friends who went into the ministry when I did are not in the ministry now. It’s rare, if they are, because they have suf­fered. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back; I’m trying to make a point. They suffered, and they quit—preachers, let alone Christians. How many Christians are saved and live for God until they die? It’s rare, because they can’t take it. “Oh, God, I can’t take it. Nobody loves me.” Paul said, “I now rejoice in my suffering for you.” We don’t have many Apostle Pauls, though, do we? The first message he ever heard was, “You are going to suffer.” Over in the book of Acts, chapter 9, verse 16, Ananias was told to go to Paul and tell him “how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” That’s the first thing he was told.

Today we don’t have a suffering religion. It’s a Sunday School picnic type of religion. It’s a hayride, jump on the bandwagon type. “I don’t want to hurt; I don’t want anybody to say anything negative about me.” It’s a caramel-coated spirituality. “Just don’t hurt my feelings.” That’s not Bible Christianity. God becomes just a grandfather in heaven who likes His people to enjoy themselves. Isn’t that true? That’s not the Bible God. Our Bible God is almighty and powerful, not an old grandfather. But, as pastors, we’re supposed to hide the less desirable aspects of the Christian life. We’re not supposed to preach on repentance for salvation or for Christians. We’re not supposed to preach on sacrifice be­cause people will quit. We’re not supposed to talk about taking up our cross and following the Lord and going where we’d rather not go.

Listen to me. Without suffering, we will never be anything for God. You take any good thing and you hand it over to a person who has not suffered, and he will destroy that good thing. Take this church, for instance. If I fell over dead, you would call a guy who is handsome. You’d say, “We’re tired of not having a handsome preacher. We want a handsome preacher.” You get a handsome guy, a smart guy. You get a talented guy. Man, can he preach! He has oratorical powers; he’s got it all. I’ll tell you what, if he hasn’t suffered for God, he would destroy this church within the first year. Are you listening to what I’m saying? You see, I can remember when I first went into the ministry. It kind of scared me to read John R. Rice when he said a pastor is never going to be truly, truly used of God if he hasn’t gone through trials.

Now think of John Kenderdine, for instance. We are rejoicing. His ministry has exploded. How can that be? Well, the first thing, as an assistant in Philadelphia he was persecuted. He was hated. Ra, who was there in the church with him, can tell you he was hated for his good. Then he went over to Cambodia for a couple of years, and his wife gets killed. Now, most people would quit. “What’s wrong? God doesn’t love me.” The first thing that entered my mind when that happened was God must have big plans for him. Now, I’m not saying he couldn’t destroy his ministry, but I have an idea that we’re going to be amazed at what God does there.

Think of other missionaries. Think of Pat and Greta. They went to Zambia and had health problems. Think of how we’re praying for the Olsons. Now these are young people, and all of a sudden they have terrible, terrible health problems that are really hindering their lives. You say, “Why would God do that?” I think He’s got something special for them if they will just stick with it. Mark surrendered to be a missionary, and God allowed him to have cancer. The doctor in Michigan City said, “You can’t live more than six months. It’s over.” Why does that happen? When I entered the ministry, I saw that all around me. It scared me to death that people who were used of God suffered. They had to suffer. It was part of the requirement.

Don’t feel sorry for the college students, especially married college students, who have to wear hand-me-down clothes and eat peanut butter without jelly for supper, and maybe have a pound of hamburger to last for the week. God is getting them ready. Now, most quit, but God is trying to get them ready. I really feel for kids whose parents take care of them in college. I watched this one time as a student with lots of natural ability had his father-in-law take care of him year after year. Once you start taking care of someone, once a person is on welfare, it’s hard to stop. When he entered the ministry, his father-in-law took care of him. He started a church, and he took care of him. Now, he’s a failure. A girl comes to college. She’s lonely; she cries. Her parents come and pick her up and take her home. It’s the end of her life. No, I don’t mean she’s going to die. It’s the end of what she could be for God, because Daddy and Mommy are going to take the place of God.

Don’t baby your kids. I say that all the time. We don’t know how affluent we are. I talk about allowing your children to drive your car, and go here, and go there. I see the nice clothes, but I’m afraid to say anything. You’ll think I’m crazy. I watch the affluence and how you take care of your kids, and how you baby your kids. My son Jeff purposely went to grade school with holes in his blue jeans. I don’t mean the “stylish” holes that we see today. If you had seen my kids, especially in grade school, you would never think they were the boss’s kids. But, now, we want our kids to have the very latest styles. We want them to look so cool. Why don’t you want them to be great Christians? You are destroying them. You are hurting them. Don’t pamper them, or they will never be ready for adulthood. Most kids aren’t ready today. They’ll never be ready for marriage or service for God.

There was on Paul’s part a readiness to suffer. Then secondly, Paul was ready to spread the Word. Back again to Colossians 1:28, “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” I think most of our church members would agree that the hope of America is revival. I’ve been preaching hard on revival now for about eight years; but if we’re not careful, it will become commonplace to hear preaching on it. I’m not talking about a “whoop-de-do” meeting. I’m not talking about a famous soloist coming, or some “fancy-pants” preacher. I’m not talking about some sports personality giving his testimony, but revival. Men and women thoroughly getting right with God. Men and women honestly taking more time in prayer. Men and women being honest. So many times we just read through what I say or interpret everything by our own thinking. We always want to overlook our sin, not thoroughly get right. You’ve heard me say it a thousand times. God knows whether you are sincere or not. If you are sincere and say, “I will take care of sin,” like a lightning bolt, He will show you your sin. But we have to be sincere. Sincere about soulwinning. Just getting right with God.

Listen, if we’re going to do, and continue to do, a real job for God, it takes more than water pistols. We need some real prayer warriors. We need some people who will say, “That’s my ministry.” You older people, do you really pray? Not just older people, either. We need some people to put hours in a day, praying. We need everybody to pray, really pray. You get going, and you’ll get somebody else and pray with them. Prayer meetings that God puts together. We need soulwinning, real soulwinning. Not just going through the motions, but a real burden for souls.

We need to give. Some of our people in their own businesses were booming for about five years and are not prospering as much. You say, “I’m giving.” No, when we’re right with God, He lays it upon people’s hearts and they give like crazy and give sacrificially, even when it seems they can’t. God will lay it upon someone else’s heart, and then it’s your turn. But the problem is that most of us won’t even think, “God, do You want me to give more?” Maybe God wants you to give more. Maybe God wants you to give a chunk. That’s the point I’m trying to make. We need to be serious. We’re building and it’s a big, big project. In the middle of building the classroom building, we’re going to build the recreation complex. What are we doing? We’re building a foundation so that we can do so much more for God in the future.

We need to stand. We need to suffer some. You say, “So much!” Yes, it takes something to do a work for God. When you have about 700 people, and you are trying to reach the mentally handicapped, the retired, the poor, those in the nursing homes, those in jail, the Spanish—when you’ve got about 700 people and you are trying to shake a community—it takes something. Then as we send our missionaries to other countries, we’re not just sending them to win a couple souls. Our prayer and our goal is to really touch Cambodia, to really touch Zambia, to let them know that we’re there. It takes something. Maybe we can’t do it, but to start and fund and build an orphanage in a third world country takes something. It takes more than just attending church, more than what we’re giving. We want to be com­fortable, though; that’s our problem. “Oh, God, take care of me.” God takes care of us, but we want to be comfortable. It seems like the older we get the more comfortable we want to be, instead of the closer we get to going to heaven the more we want to be like Him.

“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” Don’t make excuses. Don’t sit there and say, “The Preacher just wants money.” We have a min­istry. “Well, I can’t go soulwinning this week.” Don’t let the love of the world get you. Don’t sit there watching television. The majority here are thought of as crazy because we don’t have one. Don’t get money hungry. “Are you saying we don’t need money? I’ve got to make money.” I remember a guy saying that was his ministry—he was going to make money to give. If your ministry is to make money to give as opposed to everything else, you won’t make money. But I’m talking about working overtime so much that you can’t minister, or getting too involved selling vitamins, or whatever the devil gets you into. Don’t let the pride of life get you. So many times we pray, and pray, and God gives us a blessing. We say, “Praise God,” and on we go. All we think about is us. Sometimes God blesses us, whether financially or with a good job or nice home, and we get big-headed. Don’t worry about what people think, either. Let’s be ready. Ready to warn every man, as the Bible says, teaching every man, to present every man.

We had a great year in the bus ministry last year. In my own mind, an unbelievable year. So what do we want to do? Slack off? No, we want to have just a little better year this year. And we can if we do what’s right. God has blessed us. Last year was honestly one of the best years we’ve ever had; but if we slack off, this year will be one of the worst years we’ve ever had. Let’s spread God’s good news, I heard somebody once say, “like butter on hot toast.” Let’s witness every time we honestly can. Let’s pass out tracts. Let’s look forward to canvassing. Let’s really be what we should be. People think our church is active. You and I both know we’re not one-tenth as active as we should be. If we were, people would be saying, “What is happen­ing there?”

A man went to a small town in Georgia once. Now this was a few years back, and he wanted a drink. He went to a place where he thought he could get a drink. “No drinks.” He went to another place. “No drinks.” He said, “What’s wrong with this ‘blankety-blank’ town, can’t you get a drink?” Somebody said, “There was a man sent by God, his name was John Wesley.” That was well over a hundred years after Wesley died, and he still couldn’t get a drink in that town. You see, the gospel touched that town. And we can have that. We have some of that. But it’s time for us to bring it up a notch. Are you ready to really shake Porter County, Lake County, LaPorte County? I hope you are. As your pastor, we have plenty of programs, but I want to see this community touched in this year as never before.

The only way it happens is if you appraisers, for instance, are the witnesses that you should be. And you engineers are the witnesses that you should be. And you car salesmen are the witnesses you should be. I could go on and on. You that work at the steel mill are the witnesses you should be. That’s the only way it happens. It’s not a program as such. It’s a burning heart. Again, you that are in your own business, you have it better than most. Some of you say, “Well, at the mill they are allowed to put naked pictures on the wall, but we can’t witness.” You can find a way to witness. I’m not saying to go against the rules, but you can find a way to witness. When I was a young man and I sold vacuums, I made an agreement with God that I would never, sale or no sale, leave the house without sin­cerely trying to witness. You know what that made me do? It made me be more honest in my sales. And you know what else? It made me rich. God blessed! I was just a kid going to college. I’m not saying it will make you rich, but listen, I’m just asking if you’re ready. Ready to spread the gospel. Ready to take the time. Ready to spend the money.

And then third and last, the readiness to strive in verse 29, “Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” Strive is a strong word. It’s the idea of digging in, working up a sweat. Now, we need workers, and the secret of having real workers is having striving workers. Again, look at verse 26, “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from genera­tions, but now is made manifest to his saints.” There was a mystery, something they didn’t know. It was hidden, but now it’s made manifest. “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles…” What’s the mystery? “…which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

I love that phrase. It’s one of the greatest phrases in the Bible. Do you want to be a soulwinner? Do you want to be the Christian you ought to be? The dad, the husband, the mother? “Christ in you.” Now I know that all who are saved have Christ. But I’m thinking about this in another way. An old preacher was trying to illustrate this to a church member. They were sitting in front of a fireplace, and he took the poker and put it in the fire. They continued to talk for quite a long time. Then he took it out, and by that time, the poker was red hot, all the way up the handle. He said, “The poker was in the fire, just as you are in Christ. If you leave the poker in, the fire will be in the poker. And Christ will literally be in you.”

Christ in you, that’s what we need. When the devil gets to you, if Christ is in you, you put a blister on him. Do you understand what I’m saying? You’ll scare him off. Do you know who the devil goes after? Yes, the leaders. But he runs from those who are red hot. He goes to the lukewarm ones and tears them up. What our problem is this morning is that we whine too much, we feel sorry too much, we make too many excuses. We’re not red hot. We’re not burning hot. Oh, if we would have someone this morning say, “I want Christ in me like a red hot poker, so I don’t have to ‘work up’ soulwinning, so I don’t have to grit my teeth to give some extra money. I don’t have to be blind as far as rearing my children. I’m red hot.” That’s the hope.

The whole secret of being ready to suffer, to win souls, to strive, is Christ in you. Street preaching, at the old folks’ home, in the jails, with bus parents, soulwinning, discipling—Christ in you. Not just going through the mo­tions, but really learning what prayer is. Really getting in the Bible, and the Bible speaking to us. Really begging and not giving up. I warned. If you don’t heed, I’ll have to just wait. I’ll wait for your tears. I’ll wait for your hurt. I’ll wait for destruction. It’s one or the other. You are either going to be victorious, or be destroyed.

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