Robert Jeffress - A Life Well Spent
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Remember what it was like to be a kid climbing trees and jumping off swings like you were invincible? Well, the older you get the more you become aware of your own mortality. And the more you start to think about the legacy you want to leave behind. Today, we're going to look at Paul's final words to the Roman Christians to discover four essentials for living a significant life. Our study today is titled, "A life well spent" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
I came across a list of actual excuses written by parents to school officials to explain their children's absence from school. Listen to this. One of them, "My son is under the doctor's care and should not take p.E. Please execute him". Another one, "Mary could not come to school today because she is suffering from very close veins". You have to think about that. Another one, "Please excuse ray, Friday. He has loose vowels". Another one, "Please excuse roland from p.E. For a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip". And then my favorite one, "Please excuse tom from being absent today. He had diarrhea and his boots leak".
You know from time to time we all come up with excuses to rationalize our action or our inaction. Sometimes our excuses are valid: sometimes they're not, as we just saw. Now you may be saying: well, that's true pastor, but what in the world does that have to do with the book of Romans? Well, more than you probably think. Because whether you realize it or not Paul's letter to the Romans was actually one long excuse note. Paul was explaining to the Roman Christians why he had never visited them before. He had wanted to, he said, but he had been prevented from doing so. Beginning with verse 14 of Romans 15 to the end of the letter is simply an epilogue in which Paul has some final words for the Roman Christians. And in those words he talks about his desire to come see them and his desire to visit Spain.
Now it would be very easy to skip over to this final section of Romans. I mean, after all, what do Paul's travel plans and his personal relationship with the Romans - what does that have to do with my life today? But as we're going to see today, as you look between the lines of Paul's final words to these Romans, as he discusses his travel plans, you see the secret of Paul's effectiveness. You can discover the principles for living a life of significance. Do you realize that outside of Jesus Christ no person in history has had a greater impact on the Christian faith than the apostle Paul?
I remember reading a cover story in Time Magazine a few years ago. This wasn't Christianity Today. It was Time Magazine, about the life of the apostle Paul, claiming he was the most effective missionary and evangelist the world has ever known. I mean think about it, half of the books in the New Testament were written by Paul. He was the greatest systematizer and articulator of Christian doctrine who ever lived. Today our faith is based upon the writings of the apostle Paul who explained better than anyone the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now how do you explain his success, his effectiveness? Well it certainly wasn't in his charisma, his rhetorical ability: even his appearance. I mean Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:10 wrote about what other people said about him. He said, "For they say about me, Paul's letters are weighty and strong, but his personality is unimpressive, and his speech contemptable". He had had a charisma bypass. How do you explain this short, little, Jewish man with a hooked nose who made such an impact for Christ? Well that's what we're going to discover today.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Romans chapter 15. Let me ask you this morning, those of you watching on television: would you, like the apostle Paul, like to come to the end of your life and say as Paul said about his life, "I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith and there is laid up in me in heaven a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge shall award me: and not me only, but to those who love his appearing"? Wouldn't that be a great way to come to the end of your life? When you close your eyes for the last time here on earth, and awaken in the presence of Jesus Christ, do you want to hear those words from the master, "Well done good and faithful servant"?
I want you to notice in these verses four essentials for living a significant life. Four characteristics of a life well spent. Number one: like Paul, a person who is significant in life possesses a clear purpose for living. That's secret number one for a life well spent: to have a clear purpose for living. Look at verses 15 and 16, "But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again because of the grace that was given me from God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the gentiles, ministering as a priest the Gospel of God, that my offering of the gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit".
Paul is saying: some of the things I've written to you have been tough things to say, I know. But they're fulfilling my purpose in life. God has called me to be a minister of the Gospel to the gentiles. Paul said: I'm a priest, but not the kind you're thinking of. I'm a priest, and I am offering the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is my purpose. And by the way, did you know God has called every one of us to be priests? That is, every one of us has as our purpose in life to represent God to people. That's what the priests did. He represented God to the people. That's what we've been called to do.
Listen to 1 Peter 2:9, "For you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation of people for God's own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light". You'll never make sense out of your life, ladies and gentlemen, till you come to understand this: there is only one reason God has left you here on earth after he saved you. Why didn't he rapture you and take you to heaven the moment he saved you? Why did he leave you here?
You've heard me say this before. He did not leave you here to build a successful career. He didn't leave you here to accumulate a big stockpile of money that you're going to leave behind. He didn't even leave you here on earth to have a happy family life. That's not his purpose for you. He left you here to be his representative in this lost world, to point as many people to God as possible through faith in Jesus Christ. That's the only reason we're here. We're priests. We're his representatives in this world.
Paul understood that. That's his purpose for living, but you know what? God's not only given all of us that same general purpose to be his representatives to point people to himself, but he has a very specific purpose, a way that individually we're going to fulfill that calling: and it's different for all of us. And Paul understood that he had a specific way he was going to fulfill that ministry of pointing people to God, and that is to be a light, a witness to the gentiles, the non-Jews.
Remember on the road to Damascus Jesus appeared to him. He not only saved him, but he said: Paul, my purpose for you is to be a light to the gentiles. Not to the Jews, but to the gentiles, to take the Gospel where it's never been before. And that clear specific purpose that Paul grasped gave him direction in his life. I want you to look down at verses 20-22. Paul said: you know what, I would have come to you, but it didn't fit my purpose of going to the gentiles where the Gospel has never been preached. Look at verses 20-22, "And thus I aspired to preach the Gospel not where Christ was already named that I might not build on another's foundation". Look at verse 22, "For this reason, I have often been hinderd from coming to you".
You know why Paul was hindered from coming to the Romans? Because he didn't want to go. He was being nice when he said, "I have been hindered". Circumstances kept me from coming, but now he's fessing up. He's saying: the reason I haven't come is because it didn't fit God's purpose for my life. God's purpose for my life has been to go where the Gospel has never been heard, to the gentiles. And that's one of the values, ladies and gentlemen - students, you especially - of discovering early your purpose in life. It helps you to know what to say yes to, and what to say no to. You've got all kind of things you can invest your time, and money, and energy in. You need to know what your clear purpose in life is from God so that you can effectively use your time and resources.
Paul said in Ephesians 5:15, "Live life, then, with a due sense of responsibility: not as men who don't know the meaning and purpose of life, but as those who do". A person of significance not only possesses a clear life purpose, but secondly he relies on supernatural power. Look at verse 17, "Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in the things pertaining to God". Boasting? He said, verse 17, "I'm boasting in the things of God", he says, "For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in obedience of the gentiles by word and deed". He said: my boasting in the things I've done is not what I've done. It's what Christ has done through me.
And he said, "As I looked back", look at verse 19, "In the power of signs and wonders, and the power of the spirit: so that from Jerusalem round about as far as illiricum I have fully preached the Gospel of Christ". I got out the map and looked at that. That's 1.400 miles of expanse. He said: as I look back in my life, man, it's been exciting to see what Christ has done through me. God wants us to be able to look back on our life with satisfaction and see God working through us in supernatural power.
One other thing I noticed in verse 19. Notice he says the foundation of Paul's ministry was the Gospel of Christ proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit. Verse 19, "In the power of the Holy Spirit I preached the Gospel". You know what the secret of Paul's effectiveness was? His life, his ministry was based on the Word of God proclaimed in the power of the Spirit of God. That was the basis of his effectiveness in life. That is the secret to effective ministry. Remember what Peter said in 1 Peter 1:23, "For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding Word of God".
The only thing that's going to change a person's life is that Word of God implanted in his or her life. What I want you to notice here is the sign of a life of significance is, first of all, somebody possesses a clear life purpose. Secondly they rely on a supernatural power, the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, a person of significance is one who formulates clear plans. I want you to write down this statement: a goal without a plan is only a wish. A goal without a plan is only a wish. Did you know Paul made specific plans to help him accomplish his God-given purpose? Look at verse 20, "And thus I aspired to preach the Gospel not where Christ has already been named, that I might not build upon another man's foundation". Paul said: God's called me to go where the Gospel's never been before.
Now some people are called to do just that - to be missionaries, to go to places where the Gospel has never been. On the other hand, other people have a desire to help people grow in their faith - discipleship. God has different plans for each one of us. For Paul it was to go where the Gospel had not been before. And so that gave him direction in his life. Look at verse 22, "For this reason I have often been hindered from coming to you". I.E. It didn't fit my plans. Verse 23, "But now with no further place for me in these regions, and since I've had for many years a longing to come see you, whenever I go to Spain - for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you when I have first enjoyed your company for a while".
Paul is saying: I've been everywhere there has been to take the Gospel. I've been everywhere. But you know where I really want to go? The place where the Gospel hasn't been yet - Spain. If you get out a map and look at Paul's journeys you can't even find Spain on the map - it was so far west. But that's where Paul wanted to go. He wanted to go to Spain. Only problem was, he had to come up with a plan to get to Spain. He couldn't go out to DFW, put down a piece of plastic, and charge a ticket, and go to Spain. It was a big deal to go to Spain. He had to develop a specific plan on how he was going to get himself there.
Now when Paul was writing these words, he was in Corinth, the city of Corinth in about 58 A.D. And so if he wanted to go to Spain, the best way to go was to travel 600 miles northwest, and he would be in Rome, and from Rome he could go on to Spain. But then he had a problem, actually two problems. First of all, he had made a commitment to go to Jerusalem and deliver some money to the saints who were in need there. And so Paul says in verse 25, "I need to keep my commitment".
By the way, when you're making plans for your life, be sure they're in keeping with the commitments you've already made before: commitments to your mate, to your employer, even to God himself. God doesn't want you to break your commitments to formulate some new plans. Paul said: I've made this commitment so I'm going to backtrack from Corinth, I'm going to go 800 miles the opposite direction. I'm going to deliver the money to the saints, and then I'll be ready to travel 1.400 miles to Rome, and I'm going to come see you on my way to Spain. And that is what he says in verse 24.
Why he's going to come by and see those Roman Christians? Yeah, I want to bless you, and encourage you, but look at verse 24, "Also I want to be helped on my way to Spain by you". Translation: I need some bucks. I need some filthy lucre if I'm going to make it to Spain. He didn't hesitate in asking for financial support from people. He realized he was doing them a privilege by allowing them to partner with him in his worldwide ministry to Spain. He wasn't hesitant to do that at all. He said: I need your help.
You know, God could have financed his ministries any way he wanted to. I mean God could make it where every Monday morning, God deposits at the bank of America, you know, $10 million for the First Baptist Church of Dallas. Wouldn't that be great if just like manna appears there? The cattle on a thousand hills belong to him. But God didn't choose to do it that way. God has chosen to allow us to partner with him in ministry by using our financial resources. That is his plan for financing his ministry - through God's people.
I was reading this week about Charles Haddon Spurgeon, great preacher of yesteryear in London, one day he received a letter from the chairman of deacons of another church. They were inviting Spurgeon to come for a high attendance day to preach at their church, and they were going to use that day to pay off their church debt. And they thought: well, if we get Charles Spurgeon here, man, we'll have a great crowd and we can raise the money and pay off the debt. So they wrote this letter to Spurgeon.
The chairman of deacons said: now Mr. Spurgeon, I'm a very wealthy man, and when I come you can stay at my country house, my town house, or my seaside house. Spurgeon wrote back and said: I've got a better idea. Why don't you sell one of those houses, pay off the debt yourself, and I won't even have to come? See, that's God's plan. If you're going to be effective in life, you have to have a clear purpose. You have to rely on the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. You have to formulate clear plans. Remember, a goal without a plan is only a wish. But fourthly, you need to exercise persistence.
Notice in verse 24 he doesn't say: if I go to Spain. He says: when I go to Spain. Look at verses 28 and 29, "Therefore when I have finished this", not if, "And have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. I know that when I come to you, I will come in the fullness of the blessing of God". Paul said: I'm going to get this done. Nothing's going to stop me: not imprisonments, not beatings, nothing is going to stop me. I'm going to Spain.
You know what's interesting is we don't know if Paul made it to Spain or not. We don't know. There's some pretty good extra-biblical evidence, other writings, that suggest he did make it to Spain. But what we do know for sure from history is this: he left Corinth, he went to Jerusalem just like he had committed, dropped off that offering: while he was there, he was falsely arrested by some trumped up charges by the Jews. The Romans arrested him. They put him into Caesarea in prison for two years, and finally he made his appeal to Caesar. They took him to Rome. He finally made it to Rome, but not as he expected. He came in chains. But that didn't keep him from preaching the Gospel for two years. He proclaimed the Gospel to that different Roman guard he was chained to eight hours a day, every day for two years, and the Gospel of Christ went throughout the Roman Empire.
After those two years, his accusers didn't show up. He was released. He probably went to Spain, came back to Rome, rearrested, and finally beheaded. Paul was persistent. I think that was his secret of his success. You know what persistence is? Persistence is the courage to continue pursuing your God-given dream in spite of unexpected setbacks, unanticipated hard work, and unrelenting criticism. Paul said: I am going to Rome. You know, today folks, I see far too many Christians with what I call a finish line mentality. They're just looking for that finish line, and they set it far too early. When I am 65. Or when I get the mortgage paid off. Or when I get the final kid through college. When this happens then I'm going to sit back, and relax, and enjoy myself for the next 20 or 30 years.
Ladies and gentlemen, you may retire from your secular vocation but no Christian can ever retire from his real assignment, and that is to be a minister of Jesus Christ. Paul said: I am not stopping as long as there's one person in this world who has never heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible says we're to keep on until our very last breath is expired if there is one person in the world who has never heard of Christ.
You know this week if you've been keeping up with the media: there have been all kinds of reports about the big Stock Market correction. I was hearing on the television the other day about the hundreds of billions of dollars of net worth that has been erased by people in the Stock Market. May I share some good news with you? This week if you're a Christian, you've not lost one thing of any real worth, not a single thing. If you want to know how wealthy you really are, what your true net worth is, add up everything in your life you have that money can't buy and death can't take away, and you'll know how truly wealthy you are. Paul said: a life spent instilling God's word in the lives of people is a life that will reap dividends throughout eternity. That's true wealth. And that mission is the basis for a life well spent.