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Are You Standing On The Promises Or Just Sitting On The Premises?

John 14:15-17

Are you standing on the promises, or are you just sitting on the premises?
Clever language.
Tough question.
Don’t duck it.
Do you claim and embrace and celebrate the great promises of God underscored again and again in the Bible? Or do you just sit lifelessly and listlessly on the remote edges of the church, and respond half-heartedly to its message? Do the promises of God inspire you and invigorate you and strengthen you for the living of a significant life, or do you forget them and ignore them, and consequently slog your way through life with no zeal, no zest, no purpose, no passion, no energy, no excitement? Do you begin each day saying, “Good morning, God”, or do you say, “Good God, it’s morning!”? Tough question. Don’t duck it.

You see, some people do tend to forget the awesome promises of God contained in the Bible. Do you remember the story about the couple who discovered a new restaurant? They loved it. It was a great experience. The very next night some friends dropped by to visit, and the wife went into the kitchen to prepare some coffee. The husband proceeded to tell the friends about this new restaurant they had found. “The food was sumptuous”, he said, “the service outstanding, the decor perfect, and the price was right.” The friends said: “Sounds wonderful, what was the name of the restaurant?” The man replied, “Well, I was afraid you were going to ask me that. I am getting so forgetful, that I can’t seem to remember anything anymore. I can’t recall the name.” He paused a moment, and then he continued. “I have an idea. What is that beautiful flower that has a long stem and the beautiful blossom and thorns?” The friend said: “A rose.” The man cried: “Yes, that’s it.” Then turning toward the kitchen he called out: “Rose, come in here and tell them the name of the restaurant we ate at last night.” Well, now that’s what you call forgetful. Unfortunately, too many of us have the same problem.

Jesus understood that. He knew how forgetful we can be, so regularly, through His teachings, He reminded us that the secret to significant living is to be found in pursuing the word, the will, and the way of God in life. In fact, that’s what this powerful little passage in John 14 is all about. Jesus was in the Upper Room with the disciples. They were having a last meal together. The next day was Good Friday. The cross was looming just ahead. So here Jesus was giving them their final instructions. He was delivering a strong reminder that they were to live for Him, and to carry on His work. He said to them: “If you love me, you will keep my Commandments, and I will pray to the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth.” What a great promise! The Holy Spirit is ever present with us, giving us strength, support, and inspiration and power. To claim that promise is to learn the secret of truly significant living. Let me be specific …

The Spirit of God gives us courage in life.

True story. In a philosophy class at Rice University in Houston, the professor informed the class that they would need to bring their blue books for a test the next day. When the class assembled the next day, the professor said: “Now I want you to write an essay today on the topic ‘What is Courage?'”. The students began to write furiously; all that is except one young man. He sat there quietly, thinking deeply for five minutes. He then took his pen and at the top of the page he wrote the title: “What is Courage?” And then he wrote down just two words, which comprised his entire essay. He got up, turned in his test and walked out of the classroom. Most students took the full hour, writing page after page on the topic. That evening the professor telephoned the student who had turned in the two-word essay, in response to the question “What is Courage?”, and the professor informed him that he had given him an A+ on the test. I suspect you are trying to figure out what those two words were. In answer to the question “What is Courage?”, the student wrote: “This is.” Do you see what he did? He didn’t just define courage; he demonstrated it. He acted it out. It was a gutsy, creative, yes, courageous thing to do.

In a deeper sense, the Spirit of God enables us to demonstrate courage in our living. Some years ago, an American was walking through the marketplace in the city of Damascus. It was teeming with merchants and shoppers and tourists. Into that bustling place there came a man riding on a bicycle. He was precariously balancing a basketful of oranges on the handlebars. He was bumped, accidentally, by one of the merchants hawking his wares. The bicycle tipped, and the oranges scattered everywhere. A bitter altercation broke out between the two men. The crowd stopped to watch what promised to become a bloody fight. The enraged cyclist moved toward the merchant with a clenched fist, ready to strike a blow. Suddenly, out of the crowd, stepped a tattered little man. He positioned himself between the two adversaries, and he did an amazing thing. He reached out tenderly and took the cyclist’s clenched fist in his hands and he gently kissed it. He kissed the fist. The crowd began to laugh, and then they applauded. Then the two antagonists relaxed, smiled at each other, and together began to pick up the oranges. The little man drifted away into the crowd. The American followed him, caught up with him, and said: “What a brave and beautiful thing you just did. But why? Why did you risk it?” The little man smiled, and said simply: “Because I am a Christian.” With that he turned and was gone. You see, the Spirit of Christ was in him, and that gave him the courage to do what he did.

There are a lot of clenched fists in this world. There’s a lot of anger and hatred and bitterness and bigotry. Kissing those fists can bring peace and love and harmony and good-will. Of course, it takes courage to kiss a fist. The Spirit of God can give us that kind of courage. That’s one of the secrets of significant living.

And the Spirit of God gives us a commission in life.

The Spirit of God calls us to do the work of Christ in our lives. Do you remember a little poem called “The Greatest Word”? It goes like this:
“Tis sweet to hear ‘I love you’ beneath a giggling moon;
Tis fun to hear ‘You dance well’ to a lilting, swinging tune;
It’s great to be proposed to, and whisper low: ‘I do;
But the greatest words in all the world
Are ‘I’ve got a job for you.’”

God, in Jesus Christ, says to us: “I’ve got a job for you. There is something special I want you to do in life. Take up the cause and the cross of Christ in your life, and I will be with you.” That is one of God’s greatest promises and greatest gifts to us.

Do you, by chance, know the name Pauline Hord? She lives in Memphis, Tennessee, and she is well into her 80’s. She believes that God has a job for her to do, so once a week, Pauline Hord drives over 100 miles one way to the Parchman State Prison in Mississippi to teach the prisoners there how to read and write, but she also shares her faith with them. Even in those dreadful circumstances, she is helping them to find the secret to significant living. A few years ago, when President George Bush started his “Points of Light” program, Pauline Hord was chosen as a point of light, because of her dedication to improving the quality of life for those around her. Some weeks later, President Bush himself came to Memphis to honor Pauline Hord, however, the President’s staff made a mistake. They scheduled the luncheon on a Wednesday. That’s the day Pauline Hord spends at the Parchman State Prison, teaching the prisoners to read and to write, and witnessing to them about the love of Christ. She would not give that up. She would not disappoint those prisoners. She would not lay aside her commission; even to have lunch with the President of the United States. I’m sure that some people were disappointed when Pauline Hord didn’t make the lunch that day, but somewhere in heaven, God was smiling.

You see, the secret to living a truly significant life, is to fulfill the commission of Jesus Christ. And what is that commission? He said it Himself: “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of time.” That’s the secret of a significant life—carrying the good news of Christ into the lives of others.

So God promises to be with us in life through the Holy Spirit, giving us both courage and a commission. But the question still begs:

ARE WE STANDING ON THOSE PROMISES, OR ARE WE JUST SITTING ON THE PREMISES?
Clever language.
Tough question.
Don’t duck it.

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