If you had just one sentence to describe the instructions you'd leave in someone's life which would rock their world, what would it be? Some might offer "Trust God and take him as your Savior", while others might offer "Be open to change and live like every day matters". You probably could offer a couple other examples here, but regardless of the example you offer, I don't think you could do as good of a job as Paul did in writing to the Corinthians. He gave five key actions in the course of one sentence which will either make us or break us. Let's examine them this morning:
Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute, and love without stopping. (I Corinthians 16:13-14 MSG)
1. Keep your eyes open. I have spoken many times about the eyes as the window to the soul - they give insight into the condition of the man in what they reveal. Today's advice from Paul is to keep them open. Now, this may not seem like much - but it is his starting point. Having our eyes opened is the beginning of seeing. Try to see with your eyes closed! You probably do a poor job of actually avoiding the hazards in your path when you do! Eyes have the purpose of allowing input - taking in what they behold, interpreting that input as either pleasant or not, beneficial or not, or even beautiful or not. The eyes are the gateway into a man's heart - the input we receive moves us in some respect. It is almost impossible to take input without some form of output! So, as Paul speaks of keeping our eyes open, he is asking us to remain in a position of taking in what God puts in our path. In the simplest sense, we think of keeping our eyes open as being vigilant and aware. I don't think this is far from what Paul was aiming at here - for in being alert, we can respond to what we receive as input. The action word here is "keep" - maintain, cause to continue, so as to set the course. Our eyes have a lot to do with the course we keep. Whatever we choose to focus on will go a long way in affecting how we take all the other steps Paul outlines!
2. Hold tight to your convictions. A conviction is more than just some clever theory or persuasive fact. A conviction is a fixed or firm belief - it has some basis - roots which give it soundness. When a conviction is shared, the person sharing it is determined to move another by the evidence presented - so as to bring the other person to a place of agreement about the evidence. When the right stuff is entering through our vision, we begin to form sound convictions - we have all the right evidence to present. Paul points out the action associated with convictions is that of "holding tight" to these convictions. In order to understand this, I think we need to examine the courtroom to see the importance of convictions. Since convictions are the position one assumes based on the evidence, in a court of law an attorney will attempt to present the evidence which will make his case. In other words, he is presenting that which gives foundational truth to his case. We need to know what gives our "case" foundational truth. Some evidence is weak at best. Other evidence is so strong, it cannot be denied. Paul tells us to hold onto the truth we have been given so as to have an undeniable foundation upon which we base our lives.
3. Give it all you've got. Back a few years ago, there was a slogan coined by the US Army - "Be all you can be". Maybe it wasn't quite biblical, but it spoke volumes. In this simple statement, the idea of being something of worth, value, and importance was presented. It gives us the idea of coming to the place of realizing our fullest potential. Now, I don't believe fro a moment one has to join the Army to reach one's fullest potential, but their recruiting slogan does hit the nail on the head! All we've got - not part - is what Paul says is called for in this life of serving Jesus. Ever serve someone half-heartedly? How'd that make you feel? Do you think the one being served knew you were only half-interested in serving them at that moment? Probably! I think there is something revealing in this instruction from Paul - give it all you've got. The action required is that of "giving" - present willingly and without expectation of compensation. Hmmmm....I wonder what this world would be like if we began to equate being all we could be with what it is we could willingly give without the expectation of some form of compensation as a result of our service?
4. Be resolute. To be set in purpose - not easily swayed - this is the idea presented next. Now, taken in order, if we have our focus correct, allowing the right stuff to be taken in, we will form the right basis of evidence in our lives which will cause us to begin to act differently toward others (and even ourselves). To this, Paul adds we are to be set in our purpose - fixed, determined, unwavering, undaunted by what life throws at us. When the preponderance of evidence is significant, the ability to "stand behind" the evidence is easier than when their is very little evidence, right? What gets us to the position of being able to be resolute? I think it is in the building up of the evidence in our lives of being new creations in Christ - realizing the actions of grace within our lives. Each action of grace gives us some additional evidence upon which we ground our convictions - we stand stronger by the revelation of grace. Some will say grace is that which was undeserved. You would be correct, but even the best of attorneys will tell you evidence discovered in the most unlikely places or by the most unlikely means is still evidence! We can stand undaunted by life - by grace.
5. Love without stopping. Can anyone actually do anything without stopping? I tire easily, how about you? Yet, there are some involuntary things which occur within my body which continue to occur without thought or action on my part - like my heartbeat or my breathing. I can hold my breath, but there is some overriding impulse center in my brain which tells my body to begin to take a breath before it is too late. Why? Simply because life is sustained by these actions. Paul tells us to love without stopping. Now, don't believe for a moment that I am presenting the idea of love being an "unthinking" action. It is quite the opposite - it requires we be "invested" in its actions in order to reveal any sincerity in those actions. Yet, when something becomes a way of life for us, the "thought" we put into those actions is almost automatic. We just do it because it is what we do. Paul might just be telling us to make love such a way of life that we love without really having to work ourselves up in order to love. It becomes "natural", free-flowing from a heart which has been convinced by the love and grace of God.
Now, these aren't rocket science here, but if we actually take all these five principles together and begin to focus our lives on each action, we might just learn to walk a little differently. Just sayin!