Sunday Sermon: ‘Enrolled in the School of Life’

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This morning we would like to give honor to our graduates. We are extremely proud of you and we are excited to see what God has in store for you in your future. I would like to acknowledge at the beginning of my message “Pastor Joey Nelson of Stone Hill Community Church” whose message helped to guide me as I formed my outline. Thank you Pastor Nelson for sharing your message on Sermon Central.

I have chosen to entitle my message: ‘Enrolled in the School of Life.’ Graduation, whether it’s from high school or college is a big deal. It’s brings a great sense of pride and accomplishment to those graduating and to their families. But as many of us know, graduation is not the end; it’s only the beginning. That’s why we always have a Commencement Speaker at our gradations. To commence something is to begin something. Although part of the purpose of the Commencement speech is to acknowledge the accomplishments that have been made by the students, the major thrust of their speech is to challenge the graduates as they step out into the future. That’s why I’ve entitled my message: “Enrolled in the School of Life.” As our students leave the schools they have attended they are stepping out into another school – the School of Life. Actually I started to entitle this message – ‘Enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks’ because that’s about the only place where most of us can learn something.

I would like to give three pieces of advice to our graduates today.

I. Face Down Your Fears

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

These words were originally written to a young man who had been thrust out into the school of life. His name was Timothy and at a young age he found himself in a position of great responsibility. From what Paul wrote to him, we can assume that young Timothy was experiencing some fear.

A. The Fear of Young Timothy

Why was Timothy fearful? There are a variety of reasons.

1. He Was Young

The Bible doesn’t tell us Timothy’s age at this point, but we do know that he was probably pretty young. Most likely he was not much more than a  teenager when he first met Paul and joined him on his missionary journeys. At this point he’s probably  in his early to mid-twenties. He’s about the age of someone who’s just graduated from college.

2. He Was Naturally Timid

There is some question as to whether or not Timothy was someone who was naturally timid. Some say that to say that Timothy was naturally timid is to overstate a Paul’s comments. Yet another commentary says that in his two letters to Timothy, Paul gave at least twenty-five statements of encouragement for him to be strong. In addition, some have said that 1 Timothy 5:23 indicates that he had what we might call a “nervous stomach.” Perhaps much of Timothy’s timidity was due to his young age. “Who am I to try to lead people who are old enough to be my parents?” Yet consider what Paul said to his young friend-

“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers…” 1 Tim 4:12

Paul was saying to Timothy – “Don’t be shy or timid. Demonstrate before others what it means to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ.”

3. He Was Carrying a Tremendous Responsibility

1st and 2nd Timothy are two of Paul’s ‘Pastoral Epistles.’ The other one is the book of Titus who was also a pastor at Crete. Church tradition says that Timothy served as the pastor of the church at Ephesus.

Apparently the Ephesian church was a very important church. Acts 19 teaches us that Paul spent at least two years in Ephesus, teaching the Word of God. In addition, Paul wrote to them one of his most important letters in the New Testament. The book of Ephesians is right up there with the book of Romans and the book of Hebrews in its teaching of biblical doctrine. Many of the believers in Ephesus were well-grounded in biblical truth. Another indication of the strength of the Ephesian church is that later on, the Apostle John also served as one of its pastors.

So how would you like to be young, naturally shy and facing the responsibility of guiding such a well-seasoned group of believers? I can tell you how it was affecting Timothy. It was causing him to be a bit fearful.

B. Two Types of Fear

There are two types of fear described in the Bible:

1) The Fear of God

2) The Fear of Man

1. The Fear of God

It’s a good thing to fear God. The Bible says – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Ps 111:10)

The fear the psalmist is referring to is not a fear to come to God or to seek to know Him. The Bible tells us that as His children, we can have boldness and confidence in our relationship with God. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:16) Rather it is a fear of disobeying God and displeasing Him. One of the great problems in our world today is that there is not enough fear of God. Even Christians sometimes willfully live in disobedience to what they know to be the will of God. Paul tells us that a lack of proper fear for God is a sign of sinfulness. “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Rom 3:18)

2. The Fear of Man

In contrast to the fear of disobeying God is the fear of obeying God.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;

One of the problems young Timothy was facing was a growing opposition and persecution of Christianity. Christians were being arrested, beaten and even put to death. Such opposition was causing many Christians to become afraid. They were afraid to obey God and preach the gospel.

The Bible warns us of the danger of allowing such fear to control us. We read from the book of Proverbs:

Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.

Someone has said that –

Those who fear God will not fear men
and those who fear men will not fear God.

C. Facing Down Your Fears

Graduates, God has a special plan for your life and if you let your fears hold you back, you will not accomplish all that God wants you to accomplish, nor will you fully reach your God-given potential.

Jesus told a parable about a man who let fear hold him back. A master took a long trip and just before his departure, he entrusted a portion of his estate to each of his three servants. The first two servants stepped out in faith and used their master’s inheritance wisely. “Well done thou good and faithful servant” their master said to them. But the third servant didn’t act so wisely. Jesus said that he took his talent and buried it in the ground. Why did he do this? “I was afraid” he said. What was he afraid of? No doubt he was afraid that he might fail. In response his master said to him – “You wicked, lazy servant!” (See Matthew 25:14-30)

Paul told Timothy to not be afraid.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

How do we face our fears?

1. Don’t let your natural shyness hold you back

Some people are naturally shy. Timothy seems to have been that way. He wasn’t as aggressive as his mentor, the Apostle Paul. In all likelihood, if Paul had not encouraged him, he might have hidden his gifts and abilities and never used them to their fullest potential. Paul told Timothy to not let fear hold him back. “Defeat your fears and let God use you for His glory.”

One of the great Christians in history was a missionary by the name of Hudson Taylor. I find great encouragement in this quote from him:

“All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them.”

2. Don’t let the Devil fill your head with his lies

What great lie does the Devil try to tell us? “You can’t!” If we listen to this lie, we never will. As I think about Timothy I wonder what kind of relationship he had with his natural father. We know that Timothy’s dad was not a believer and therefore there is a good chance that he may have put Timothy down for his faith. Paul, Timothy’s spiritual father, wasn’t going to let this dynamic young man waste his talent. “You can!” Paul told him. “You can because God will help you!”

2 Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

3. Trust in the God’s Grace and Power

Satan tries so hard to fill my mind with the thoughts of – “You can’t.” Therefore I have to resist him with the truth that says – “I can do all things through Christ who will strengthen me.” (Php 4:13) Through the power and grace of God, we can do anything that He calls us to do.

II. Forget Your Failures

One of the lessons you have to learn as you enroll in the school of life is how to face your fears. The second lesson is how to forget your failures.

As many of you know, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. What many do not realize is that he did not do it on the first try. For that matter, he did not do it on the 1st, 2nd or even 100th try. I have read that Thomas Edison once said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

If you do anything in life, you’re going to fail from time to time. That’s just natural. It’s not whether or not will you fail. It’s what will you do with your failures? Will you give up and quit, or will you get back up and start again. Consider these words from the Apostle Paul –

Philippians 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Some have said that Paul was the ‘Greatest Christian Who Ever Lived’ yet Paul called himself the ‘Chief of Sinners.’ Before Paul became a Christian, he was a persecutor of Christians. He did all that he could to destroy the church and the work of Christ.

Paul could have easily been held prisoner by his past. He could have spent the rest of his life beating himself up. David did that. Scripture teaches us that David never fully recovered from his sin with Bathsheba. Though the Lord forgave David, David never forgave himself and as a result his family suffered.

None of us are perfect. We’re all fail God in one way or another. Thankfully our relationship with Him is not based upon our perfection, but His perfection. The Bible says –

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

What does it mean to confess our sins and to forget our failures?

A. Confessing Our Sins and Forgetting Our Failures Is Not –

1. Airing out all of our dirty laundry before the church.

2. Making excuses. “I know that I shouldn’t do this but…”

3. Asking for forgiveness with the intention of committing the same sin again.

B. Confessing Our Sins and Forgetting Our Failures Is –

1. Calling sin what it is – sin.

2. Acknowledging before God that what we have done is an offense to His holiness.

3. A a sense of brokenness that demonstrates true repentance.

4. Asking for His forgiveness.

5. Looking to Him for the strength to not commit this same sin again. Will we ever commit the same sin again? Perhaps. However, it will not be our desire or intention.

God wants to forgive us and to restore us. This can be seen in the life of Simon Peter. As you well know, Peter failed the Lord miserably. Yet the Lord did not want Peter to let his sin hold him prisoner.

John 15:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

Why did the Lord continue to ask Peter the same question? It was not to beat Peter up. Jesus wasn’t scolding Peter over his failure. I believe that Jesus was causing Peter to dig deep into his heart so that he could determine that he really did love his Savior. Jesus wanted Peter to receive His full forgiveness and to get back into the game. Unlike David, Peter did receive the Lord’s forgiveness and in the years ahead he helped thousands find salvation.

III. Focus on Your Faith

Lesson #3 in the School of Life – ‘Focus on Your Faith.’ Most college students have what is called a ‘Declared Major.’ Though they may learn many things during their time in college, there is one particular area of study that they make their primary interest. For us that should be our relationship with our Savior. If you want to succeed in the School of Life, focus on your faith.

Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience (endurance) the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

To know Christ more and more and to become more and more like Him was the Apostle Paul’s – Declared Major in Life. That was his primary focus. Whenever he was tempted to become discouraged or distracted, he focused on Jesus. Therefore at the end of his life he could say – “I have fought the good fight and I have kept the faith.” In other words – “I have finished well.”

CONCLUSION

We congratulate our graduates on their accomplishments. We also encourage them to look to the future with courage and confidence.

Face Down Your Fears

Forget Your Failures

Focus on Your Faith

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