Thriving | Acts 10:34-43
The Christian Rock Band Casting Crowns have written, “It's time for us to more than just survive; We were made to thrive”.
From my experience as a pastor and my understanding of the Bible, many Christians are living like they are just surviving, when in fact, the bible teaches that we are to thrive. A study of Ephesians chapter 1 ought to reveal this to us. Paul says that God has “blessed us with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3 NLT). And then he lists all those amazing blessings! ⦁ We are chosen by God v4 ⦁ We are predestined by God v5 ⦁ We are adopted into God’s family v5 ⦁ We have received His grave v6 ⦁ We have been redeemed v7 ⦁ We have been forgiven by Christ’s blood v7 ⦁ We are sealed by the Holy Spirit v13 ⦁ We are guaranteed an inheritance v14
We are blessed with every spiritual blessing, so that ought to be mean that spiritually, we ought to be thriving.
Many of us Christians are just surviving spiritually because of issues such as hardships, lack of health, conflicts, and the lists continues. It’s the same with church. It ought to be thriving resulting in people coming to faith, baptisms, testimonies of God working in people’s lives, numerical growth, new church plants, the poor and vulnerable being cared for and helped, past wrongs with various cultures being reconciled, and the list continues. Jesus said to the church in Laodicea that they were only just surviving. They were lukewarm. He wanted them to be on fire!!
I find the verse in proverbs that is being quoted in some of our publicity for this series quite intriguing. Proverbs 11:10 says, “When the righteous thrive, a city rejoices…” (Proverbs 11:10 HCSB). And when we do some research, we find that this is so true. Some of us have watched in utter amazement back in the 1990s and early 2000s the Transformation Videos. They were powerful stories of towns and cities around the world who saw that when God began to transform the church and people repenting of their sins and following Jesus as Lord, gradually significant change in their towns and cities began to happen. Crime rates, murders, and rape were all down. Food crops were bountiful. Marriages restored. I mean, when the righteous thrive, a city rejoices (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MG-XBkCTDY). Some of us have read stories of revivals last century in Wales, Papua New Guinea, America and we hear of stories of mass conversions and incredible affect that this has in villages, towns and cities - “when the righteous thrive, a city rejoices”. When Billy Graham conducted the Southern Cross Crusades in Australia and New Zealand in 1959, where he preached to pack stadiums at the MCG, the SCG with people next door at the Show Grounds, and in towns across the country via the old land line, thousands came forward, repenting of their sinful living, asking Jesus to be their Lord and Saviour. And our history books actually record that for 2-years after these crowds, not only were church attendances everywhere up, but crime rates were down, attendances at the pubs were down, and other social affects - “when the righteous thrive, a city rejoices”.
Our mandate, our cause as a church, the great commission is to make disciples. And when churches do the work of evangelism unashamedly, people lives are totally transformed in Christ - “when the righteous thrive, a city rejoices”. Our city of the Gold Coast needs Christians and churches to be thriving. They may not know this, but God’s plan is to see people, churches and cities thriving.
This series, I want to look at four areas that are essential for Christians and Churches to get out from the rut of surviving to thriving.
The first one is all about having the right foundation.
In Psalm 92, the writer says, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green” (Psalms 92:12-14 NIV).
What do you think God means when He promises that people who serve Him will flourish like a palm tree?
We Queenslanders know that palm trees grow in hostile climates. They tolerate high temperatures, little rainfall, and high winds. Palms can flourish where other trees would wither and die. Palm trees have a different root system than most other trees. Instead of the roots tapering and becoming smaller as they grow farther away from the trunk, palm tree roots stay about the same size. These roots can make their way below the dry, shifting sand to find stability where other trees would not. Also, unlike most trees that have a woody, dead outer layer, the entire trunk of a palm is alive, allowing it to be very flexible, bending in hurricane-force winds that would break other trees.
Like Palm Trees, we too need to root down to something solid. A bit like the Parable of the Wise Builder found in Matthew 7 and Luke 6. Here the man built His house on the solid foundation of rock and so when storms come it would not wash away because of its foundation.
For we Christians and for our church, we will thrive when we place our roots on the solid foundation of Jesus – not on materialism, not on nice philosophy, not on some good church growth principles they may have worked, not on some good preacher’s words. None of these. We will thrive when we place our roots on the solid foundation of nothing else nor anyone else by Jesus Christ.
Even then, this needs to be explained. You see, Jesus needs to be more than just a friend and not just a servant who comes to our beck and call when we come to him in desperation. We got to see him more than this.
The New Testament teaches us that Jesus is Lord and we as followers need to follow Him as our Lord. This is so important for us to know and accept and follow if we are to thrive.
Science writer Hope Jahren shares an interesting fact about plants, especially how a tiny seed starts to put down roots—the most essential thing for a plant's survival. She writes, “No risk is more terrifying than that taken by the first root. A lucky root will eventually find water, but its first job is to anchor… Once the first root is extended, the results are powerful. The tree's roots can swell move gallons of water daily for years, much more efficiently than any pump yet invented by man. If the root takes root, then the plant becomes all but indestructible.
When we come to Christ, our roots start to grow and we begin to understand concepts of Jesus that He is loving, forgiving, and even dying for us. These are important understandings but it’s not until our roots are actually anchored onto the foundation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ will we start to thrive. As Jesus said in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38 NIV).
Jesus is Lord. The Bible consistently affirms the lordship of Christ in every way. He is Lord in judgment. He is Lord over the Sabbath. He is Lord over all (Acts 10:36). He is called Lord (kurios) no less than 747 times in the New Testament. The book of Acts alone refers to Jesus 92 times as Lord. Clearly in the early church's preaching, the lordship of Christ was the heart of the Christian message and thousands respond to this truth about Jesus. Our reading highlights this. Peter was sent by God to a Roman Centurion in Caesarea. Here Peter was in this house with a roman family and others from the street who had gathered. And so, Peter tells them the gospel of Jesus. In this discussion Peter tells them in verse 36, “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36 NIV). And Peter told them how Jesus is Lord over judgment and forgiveness (vs.42-43). And as Peter was discussing the Lordship of Jesus, the Holy Spirit convicted those who were there. And so Peter asked, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:47-48 NIV)
The lordship of Jesus Christ means at least two things.
First, to say that Jesus is Lord is first of all to acknowledge that He is almighty God, the Creator and sustainer of all things (Colossians 1:16-17). This is a profound declaration of truth. There is little question that the Bible teaches that Jesus is God. Scripture declares Him to be God (John 1:1, cf. v. 14). God the Father addresses Him as God (Hebrews 1:8). He displays the attributes of deity—He is omnipresent (Matthew 18:20), omnipotent (Philippians 3:21), unchanging (Hebrews 13:8), He forgives sins (Matthew 9:2-7), receives worship (Matthew 28:17), and He has absolute authority over all things (v. 18). Christ encompasses the fullness of God in human flesh (Colossians 2:9). He is one with the Father. In John 10:30, He simply said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30 NIV).
We see God in action when we read of the works of Christ. When we hear His words as recorded in the New Testament, we hear the words of God. When we hear Christ express emotion, we listen to the heart of God. And when He gives a directive, it is the commandment of God. There is nothing He does not know, nothing He cannot do, and no way He can fail. Jesus is God in the fullest possible sense.
Second, as Lord God, Jesus Christ is sovereign. He claimed, for example, to be Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8), meaning that His authority as Lawgiver superseded even the authority of the law. In John 5:17, Jesus defended His right to break the Pharisees' man-made Sabbath laws claiming equal authority with God, and the Jewish leaders were so incensed at Him for it that they tried to kill Him (John 5:18).
The fact that the Jews could not kill Him before His time was further proof of His sovereignty: “The Father loves Me because I sacrifice My life so I may take it back again. No one can take My life from Me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what My Father has commanded” (John 10:17-18 NLT).
In the final judgment, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11-12). That does not mean, of course, that all will be saved, but that even those who die in unbelief will be forced to confess the lordship of Jesus. His sovereignty is limitless.
Jesus’ lordship mean that He is God and is Sovereign.
The lordship of Jesus Christ ought to have profound impact on our lives and that of our church.
S.M. Zwemer makes a challenging statement about the lordship of Jesus Christ. He said, “Unless Jesus is Lord of all, He is not Lord at all.” This is a challenge to all Christians to bring every area of our lives under the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ. In our lives, there should be no rivalry for His throne. You cannot on one hand give over to Jesus some aspects of your life while holding other aspects in your other hand behind your back.
F. B. Meyer was a well-known Baptist preacher and pastor of Christ Church in the heart of London in the nineteenth century. In the midst of a successful ministry, F. B. Meyer confessed that something was lacking in his life and ministry. His earlier Christian life was marred and his ministry paralyzed just because he had kept back one thing from the bunch of keys he had given to the Lord. Every key but one! The key of one room was kept for personal use, and the Lord was shut out. The effect of the incomplete surrender was found in lack of power, lack of assurance, lack of joy and peace. The joy of the Lord begins when we hand over the last key. We sit with Christ on His throne as soon as we have surrendered our crowns, and invite Him sole and only ruler of our life.
F. B. Meyer experienced the lordship of Jesus Christ when he handed over the last key. He had kept back the key to one room in his life and it brought great defeat. Remember, if He is not Lord of all (of every room), then He is not Lord at all. Have you given over the keys to every room in your life? Does Jesus have the key to every room in your private life? Is there a room marked “private – keep out?” If so, you haven’t really anchored into solid foundation and when those storms come, you will be blown over. You must be willing to surrender that key to the Lord.
This means our money, our priorities, our hearts, our dreams, our struggles – every area must come under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
When we as Christians and together as a church surrender every area to the lordship of Jesus, acknowledging that Jesus is God and Sovereign then we will thrive.
When we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour, it involves a recognition of His lordship, for the Saviour who saved us when we received Him by faith is the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot and do not receive Him as Saviour only. We receive Him as Lord and Saviour. However, for some surrendering to Jesus as Lord happens at some time after their conversion. It may be a few months later, or for some, many years later. This may be your experience right now. For Dr. Roger Willmore, a pastor at a Baptist Church, this was his experience. He did not wilfully reject the lordship of Christ; he simply did not know about His lordship. Jesus was presented to him as Saviour at the time of his conversion. It was only until several years later that he was introduced to Jesus as Lord. And this may be your story to. We must understand that this is not intended to be the biblical pattern.
This morning, please take the opportunity to surrender all your life to Jesus as Lord. If there is a key you are holding back, then now is the time to give it to Christ. What is in your hand that you are holding behind your back? Bring your hand around before Jesus and open your fist and hand whatever over to Him.
We weren’t created just to survive. We are called to thrive. Thrive is a life word. Thriving is what life was intended to do, like a flower stubbornly pushing through a crack in the sidewalk. Thriving is what God saw when he made life and saw that it was good. "Thrive" was the first command: be fruitful, and multiply.
For some hear, God may be saying to you that this is the year that you are going to thrive. He is saying to you: “You're a tree replanted in Eden, bearing fresh fruit every month, never dropping a leaf, always in blossom” (Psalms 1:3 MSG). “It's time for you to more than just survive; You were made to thrive”.