Skip Heitzig - Living Like There's No Tomorrow
First Peter, chapter 4, we're going to begin in verse 7. But let's begin at the beginning, let's pray together.
Father, we count it a privilege to be able to examine carefully and reflect meaningfully on the words of a man who walked with your Son as one of his closest friends and followers, Peter. We love Peter and we relate so much to him because we see so much of us whenever we hear him speak or do things that he does. He's impetuous. He says what he thinks. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He made mistake after mistake. And, yet, here's a man, a common fisherman that you used so amazingly that this letter and the next one are the letters of Peter, inspired writings, the infallible Word of God through the mouth of a man who was himself fallible and limited and weak. And so, Lord, it just causes us to imagine if you can use Peter, what you might be able to do through every one of us. So we give you our hearts, and in this study we give you the very best of who we are. We give you our attention. It's our worship. We've said some things to you in the last few minutes in the songs that we have sung, and now we want to hear from you in your Word, in Jesus' name, amen.
Tomorrow, tomorrow is what comes after today, although we have no guarantee that it will actually come at all, but we have a hunch that it will. We think that it will just keep coming, and that is because of a simple fact: today used to be yesterday's tomorrow and it came. And because those days just sort of keep piling up and keep on coming, that's why we often say, "I'll do it tomorrow. I can't finish it today, so I'll do it tomorrow". So we bank on the idea that we're just going to have more and more and more tomorrows. But you also know that tomorrow is a very elusive idea that the more tomorrows we get under our belt, the shorter they look. They become shorter incrementally each day. When you're young you think you have oodles of tomorrows, they just never end. I mean, think of it, if you're two days old, tomorrow is half your life. But the older you get, days seem to be shorter.
I remember when I was a little kid in school and I had a teacher name Miss Finer. She was a beautiful gal. And I just thought she was awesome, until she announced to our class her age. She said, "It's my birthday and I'm 25 years old". And I remember thinking, "Goodness, 25, that's old! She doesn't have many tomorrows left". Because I, on the other hand, was thinking I have an infinite number of tomorrows left. Then there were my parents and, you know, they, they were just so, so old to me. I thought, they can't have many tomorrows left at all. They've used most of them up. "It's like the little boy who said to his grandpa, 'Grandpa, were you on the ark?' Grandpa said, 'Of course I wasn't on the ark.' The little boy still couldn't get it, so he said, 'So, so then why didn't you drown?' And he just thought, 'You're at least that old, how did you survive the flood?'"
Truth is one day we will have no more tomorrows at all left. There will be none. Some of us may not actually make it through tomorrow. That's one of the facts of life. Like the patient who went back to see his doctor after a series of tests, and the doctor said, "Well, the tests came back, and I've got good news and I've got bad news. The good news actually is you have 24 hours left to live". And the patient said, "How can that be good news? What could be worse than that"? The doctor said, "The bad news is I was supposed to tell you yesterday that you had 24 hours left to live". So here's my question: How would you live if you had no tomorrow? If no more tomorrows were guaranteed you, what things would change? How would you live in the light of that?
With that as an introduction, we go to First Peter, chapter 4, beginning in verse 7: "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.' Be hospitable to one another without grumbling as each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen".
Now there's a problem with Peter's statement in terms of our reading it, and that's the first statement he makes in that paragraph, says, "The end of all things is at hand". The reason I say that's a problem is that he wrote that 2,000 years ago. So we read this document 2,000 years after he said, "The end of all things is at hand," with a big question mark. Because certainly as we read the New Testament, John the apostle, Paul the apostle, Peter, all in their writings talked about the end, the consummation of all things. And they taught in the imminent return of Christ, that he could come at any moment, and they believed that. But here he says, "The end of all things is at hand". When the New Testament closes, Revelation, one of the last words of Jesus this: "Yes, I am coming soon".
So we read that and we ask, "So how soon is soon"? And I'm actually helped by a book by C. S. Lewis called Voyage of the Dawn Treader in the Chronicles of Narnia series where there's a conversation between Lucy, one of the humans in the story, having a conversation with Aslan, that Christ figure the lion. And they're parting company and Aslan says to Lucy, "Lucy, don't look so sad. We will meet soon again". And she says, "Please, Aslan, what do you mean by soon"? And Aslan replied by saying, "I call all times soon". Here's what I want you to know and then we will get into this: "the last days" is technically a phrase in the New Testament that refers to the time between the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ, that of all of human history, that is the last part of human history, between the first and second coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ.
So we are living in the last days, but we must be living in the last part of the last days, because of all of the predictions made that have been fulfilled in our lifetime. So let's just put that aside, because we should be living and every generation should be living in the anticipation and expectation that the Lord could come back. So here's a question: Whether you have one tomorrow left, or thousands of tomorrows left, how should you live? How should you live? Well, there's three things that Peter says, because the end is near, three things: pray harder, love deeper, and serve smarter. Those are the three areas we examine this morning: pray harder, love deeper, serve smarter.
Let's look at the first one in verse 7. "But the end of all things is at hand". Just for another clarification, it means near. He didn't say, "The end of all things is here," it's near. It's moving. God's consummation toward the end is at hand. "Therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers", stop for a moment right there. "Be serious and be watchful in your prayers". Now does that sound familiar to you? Think of Peter. Think of the last time Jesus said those words to Peter. They were in the Garden of Gethsemane, right? Remember when the Lord brought Peter, James, and John into the Garden of Gethsemane? And he said something to the effect of, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to the point of death. Watch with me".
So Jesus goes away, prays, comes back, and he finds them... what? Are they watching? Yeah, they're watching the inside of their eyelids is what they're doing. They're zzzzz, they're sawing logs. And so the Lord Jesus said to them, "What? Couldn't you watch with me one hour"? And his final exhortation: "Watch and pray". "Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation". So here's Peter sort of resurrecting that idea when he writes these words: "The end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers". How do you live like there's no tomorrow? Pray harder. Pray harder.
Now I've notice something whenever a sermon is discussing prayer, people get a little bit nervous. We're not particularly fond of sermons, messages about prayer. You want to know why that is? Because we don't do it much. That's just the honest truth. Prayer isn't huge on our priority list. And so whenever somebody talks about it or we read a book on it, we fidget a little bit. One source said, "The average Christian prays 45 seconds a day and that's usually over a meal".
Another source unrelated to the first says, "The average conservative Christian in a total year, the total time spent in a year praying... 6 hours". Now the same source goes on to describe other activities: hobbies and shopping mall expeditions in a year, 90 hours; sporting activities, 100 hours; vacationing, 120 hours; prayer, 6 hours. I'm not here to heap guilt on you. You're going, "Didn't work". So let me be honest with you. I'm here to confess my own inadequacies in this area. See, I have a problem in my Christian life - me. And it's a loss of passion over time, the loss of passion over time. It's like spiritual entropy. It happens. I can think back to my early Christian walk when I discovered prayer and it dawned on me, "I am in conversation with the Creator of everything. He is listening to my words. Moreover, he's very interested in what I have to say and he wants to help me".
And I remember that dawning on me and it made such an impact on me that I would go camping, I was single, I would go camping two, three days, and I'd fast and pray. And it was some of the most exhilarating times of my life. But as time went on, as tomorrows kept coming, I just found that passion sort of leaking out. It wasn't what it used to be anymore. Prayer becomes professional and contained. What Peter seems to be saying, if I'm reading it accurately, is that as your tomorrows become fewer, your prayers, you should pray harder. As time takes its toll, as time casts its shadow on the path of your life, what will sustain you more than anything else is a solid prayer life. "The end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers".
Now back to my own experience. The reason all of that happened to me and happens to me, it happens to me all the time. It's part of the life of a believer that we deal with, can be summed up by what Jesus said to the church of Ephesus in Revelation, chapter 2. He said, "I know your works. I know you're patience. I know all the stuff you do. You're very active. You're very busy. But I have something against you". I don't like it when Jesus says that. "I've got something against you". "What is it"? "You have left your first love. You've left your first love". One translation, the New Living says, "You don't love me like you did at first"! There's been a cooling of passion. There's been a waning of commitment. "As first it was really good, but you done love me like you did at first. You have left your first love".
By the way, don't misquote that. I hear some people says, "Jesus said, 'You have lost your first love.'" You don't lose it, you leave it. You walk away from it. You make conscious choices not to need him as much as you did. And that has been my problem. "You've left your first love". Now isn't it interesting when Jesus writes to them, he says, "You do a lot of things right. I know your works. I know your labor. I know your patience. I know your discernment. So you're busy, you're active, you're going through the motions of devotions, but there's an erosion of devotion deep inside here".
Now what happens in your relationship with the Lord? Here's something you can relate to more easily. It happens in every relationship in life. It happens in marriage. Anybody who's been a counselor knows what it's like to have somebody sit on the other side of the desk and say something like, "We just don't love each other anymore". And especially if you know the couple and you've watched their journey, you look at them and you wonder what happened. What happened to that young girl whose heart skipped a beat whenever she heard his voice? What happened to that young man who would drive across town just to deliver a bouquet of flowers? What happened to that couple who used to talk together about everything so much?
You know, one of the things about a dating relationship is the couple, they just talk forever about everything, two in the morning their talking. "What are you talking about"? "The carpet". Now, I smile a little bit at that, because according to James Dobson, he says, "Go into a restaurant and watch couples, and you can tell in the restaurant who's married and who's not". He said, "I guarantee you this: the married ones are not talking much. The married ones aren't talking much. The ones dating, their looking at each other's eyes, they're talking back and forth, back and forth". So anyone in any relationship can leave their first love. Leaving your first love is not a blowout, it's a gradual leak over time. So pray harder. As your days get fewer, pray harder. That's the first one. Second one, second way to live like there's no tomorrow: love deeper. Love deeper.
Watch this, verse 8, "And above all things," preeminently, more than anything else, "have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.' be hospitable to one another without grumbling". Wouldn't you agree that love is the identification mark of the Christian? It's our birthmark. It identifies that you belong to Christ. That's what Jesus said, "They'll you're my disciples because you love each other". But look at the word "fervent". "Have fervent love". Some translations just say, "Love deeply". So I've just said, "Love deeper," deeper love, fervent love. The word fervent literally means strenuously, strenuously. It's a word that in ancient times described a horse at full gallop. That horse was stretching and straining its muscles. That's the word for fervent. It also described an athlete who would stretch or strain his or her muscles to win the race, give it all that he has or she has.
So now let me retranslate it: "When you love people, give it all you've got. When you love people, hold nothing back in your love for them. Love people like you're trying to win the Love Olympics. When you love people, do your love like you're trying to win a gold medal in loveology? That's loving fervently, strenuously". Now, you'll notice in our text there's two aspect of this love that Peter talks about. First is the love that covers, then the love that recovers. There's covering love and recovering love. Covering love is in verse 8, "Above all things have fervent love for one another". Now watch that he's quoting a text: "For 'Love will cover a multitude of sins.'" He's quoting Proverbs 10, which says, "Hatred stirs up strife, but love will cover all sins".
When somebody wrongs you, and right now you're thinking of somebody perhaps who has. When somebody wrongs you, you have, you have two choices that you can make. Number one, you can cover it up and forgive; or number two, you can expose what that person has done. This kind of love will not air dirty laundry. This kind of love does not want to expose weaknesses or cause humiliation. This kind of love seeks to handle things privately, discreetly, before it ever goes public. And there is a time to go public. Jesus said in Matthew 18 you go to that person one-on-one and you tell this person his sin or her sin privately. If they don't listen, you bring somebody else with you, just another person. If you don't listen to that person, then you widen the circle. There's a time to go public, but this kind of love is protective. It stretches itself out in order to cover.
I know some people that take pride in uncovering, not covering. Oh, they feel so righteous that they're the whistle-blower, they're uncovering sin. "I'm the gospel gestapo. It's my calling in life. I'm the great sin-sniffer, and I smell it around here, and I'm going to find it eventually". You know the type. This is covering love, seeks to cover. The second type of love is recovering love. Verse 9, "Be hospitable," hospitality. "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling". "Hospitality" is a New Testament word that literally means loving the stranger. "Hospital" comes from that, where you'd set up a system to treat people. You may or may not know them, but you're hospitable to them. Means to love the stranger.
Now, here's why this was vital for the early church: in the early church they met in homes. They didn't have church buildings, they met in homes. And the believers who had their homes were also confronted with a particular situation where there were preachers or evangelists who would travel from place to place and needed a place to stay. There were no Sheraton Hotels or Hilton Hotels or Hyatt Hotels or any of that. And inns back in those days were anything but a Holiday. So because of that, you'd open up your home to them. You'd let them stay with you. You may not know them, but you are kind to them. That's hospitality. That's what it meant in its original context. "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling". Show love to the stranger. Go out of your way to help them recover. These servants of God that are traveling through, bring them in and refresh them, let them recover. This is recovering love.
I read a little article about Albania, the country of Albania, that hospitality is so part of their culture they actually love the idea that no matter how poor they are they have stashed some special provisions and food in case a stranger comes through. And here's why, here's their motto: "An Albanian's house belongs to God and his guests". So, go out of your way to show kindness to God and his guests, hospitality. So two types of love: the first love covers, the second love recovers. The first type of love is protective; the second type of love is proactive. Okay, now I want you to take a test in your mind, just in your little head, right now. No elbows, please. How fervent is your love?
Remember the words: stretches out, strains, give it all you've got, you're trying to win a gold medal. How fervent is your love? Begin in your marriage, widen the circle out to your family, your parents, your children, your friends, your church. Maybe you're the type of person who loves to leave notes in the agape boxes stating what you don't like. I'm not going to pick at that scab, but I will have you notice the word, "You're to show hospitality without grumbling". You know what grumbling means? It's the Greek word gongusmon. It sounds like grumbling, gongusmon. It's an onomatopoetic word that sounds like what it means. It means to mumble under your breath. So you can have the right action, but the wrong attitude. You can do all the right stuff, but the heart isn't in it.
Honestly, I believe the biggest disease today is not cancer nor aids nor tuberculosis or I could name diseases, the biggest disease today is lovelessness. It's the incredible amount of people, maybe scores here, right now, who feel unloved and uncared for, and that just should never be when they are Christians around. And here's why: Romans, chapter 5 says that, "God has poured out his love into our hearts". "God has poured out his love into our hearts". Now, if God is pouring out his love into our hearts, that means there's an unlimited capacity. Does that make sense? If he's going the pouring and he has the love and he's pouring it into our hearts, picture God with a big love bucket pouring love into your life, is God ever going to go, "I'm out! There's no more love"! So you're down here going, "I just can't love him anymore. I just don't have any more love".
Wait a minute, you have an unlimited capacity, because the love of God is poured out in your heart. And if the love of God is poured out in your heart that means no one in your circle should ever be love-starved, because he's pouring it and he keepings on pouring it. So, pray harder, love deeper, here's the third: serve smarter. The last two verses: "As each one has received a gift, minister it [or serve] one another with it as stewards of the manifold grace of God. In any one speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God". Or if you're a speaker, if God called you to that, speak as though God is speaking through you. "If anyone ministers," or serves, or helps, it could be translated, "let him do it with the ability with which God supplies, that in all things God maybe glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen".
Two verses that have five truths, allow me: number one, every Christian has a spiritual gift. Everyone has some gift, spiritual gift, some spiritual enabling, capacity to help somebody else. Every believer has one. That's number one. Number two, your gift may be different than somebody else's gift. Number three, whatever gift you have you should use it to help other people. Number four, some gifts are noticeable, others are unnoticeable, all of them are helpful. Truth number five, the reason we share our gifts with other people is to glorify God. Please notice that. "That in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ".
The reason we serve is to give God glory, which seems to me to infer that if you are not involved in sharing the gift God has given to you, God is not getting as much glory as he could. Isn't that a thought, that you could actually be hindering the display of God's glory by not getting involved in sharing yourself with somebody else? Something else I'd like you to notice in our text in verse 10. Notice what the grace of God is called, notice the adjective. What kind of grace is it? What does it say? "Manifold". It's "the manifold grace of God". Now, I don't know if you're like me, but when I read words like that I go, "Whaat?! When was the last time you used 'manifold'"? Unless you work on cars maybe, exhaust manifold, intake manifold. "Manifold" is a word that means many-colored.
Now listen to Peter's description here, he's painting a picture: "Many colored grace of God". It was used to describe a garment that had many colors, beautiful, flowery, gorgeous, bright-colored garment. The grace of God, it's like this: if you shine the grace of God through one person, you get blue. You shine the same grace of God through another person, you get green or yellow or purple, or with someone, polka dots. They got flair. It's who they are. It's the manifold grace of God. God's grace is not monotone. It's not monochromatic. It has different displays. So, everyone has a gift. Everyone should share that gift, so that God's manifold, many-colored grace shines through, and we go, "Wow, what a beautiful array"!
Now, that's Peter's description. Paul's description, as you know, is the body of Christ. You know, Peter looks at it like light. Paul like looks at it like a human body. Jesus is the head. You and I are the different parts. And the head, the brain communicates to the parts what to do, where to go, and everything operates smoothly together. But here's the grand point of both of those analogies: every single spiritual gift, including the one or ones that you have, are all needed. The church needs every gift you have. No gift is too small. No person is too insignificant. I'll give an example: three decades ago, for some of you that's, you don't even remember it. That's okay, I'm dating myself. I don't mind.
Three decades ago I remember when Ronald Reagan who was president was shot and put in a hospital for two, three weeks. What I remember about the incident is that though the Chief Executive Officer of the United States of America was incapacitated for three weeks the country didn't stop, it kept running. The most, arguably, the most powerful man on earth is in the hospital, kept going, didn't shut down. Just a couple years afterwards in Philadelphia the garbage collectors protested and stopped working. The city almost shut down. In fact, the newspaper said, "If the strike continues, the city will be shut down".
Now, I step back from both of those news stories and I have this question: So who's more important, the president of the United States of America or the trash collectors in Philadelphia? You know what the answer is? All the above, both. All of them were. One is no more important than anyone else, they just have a different function, but every single gift is needed. So here's the progression, this is how it works: The gift comes from God to you and then comes from you to somebody else. Is that flow being stopped? Has God given you a gift and you never have taken the time to discover what that giftedness is, that place of serving in the church, the body of Christ is? So you've got this gift, but you're not giving it to anybody else.
When you serve God's people today, you're helping them tomorrow. When you serve God's people today, you're making sure that Jesus Christ is being represented tomorrow. And I just want you to walk away with that concept freshly put in your heart of the body of Christ. In World War II there was a French village that was bombed. This French village had a very important statue known all over the countryside. It was a statue of Jesus Christ. The statue was broken to pieces. The townspeople collected the pieces and stored it until after the war was over. When the war was over, they rebuilt the statue. They found all the pieces, glued it back together, and put the statue in the town square. Only one problem, they couldn't find the hands. So it was a statue of Christ without hands.
Now, the hands were very important to them, they bore the marks of the crucifixion, very, very significant to those Christians there. They couldn't find the hands. They looked high and low, couldn't find the hands. So one day somebody in that town put a plaque underneath. It said, "He has no hands but ours". That's the concept that I want you to get, he has no hands but yours. He has no feet but yours. He has no mouth but yours. We're the body of Christ. We're the expression of Jesus Christ by what we do. And if we don't do it, that part of the glory of God is diminished. Do you know that we belong to the greatest outfit in the world? We belong to the greatest organization in the world, the church. I don't know how you think about the church, but a lot of people don't think very highly about the church. "I don't like organized religion," you've heard it. They like disorganized religion, I guess. But we belong to the greatest outfit in the world. Allow me to tell you why.
Number one, we have a product that works universally. You can take the gospel to any country, any language, and unleash it, and it will change lives. Our product works universally.
Number two, we have offices worldwide. Every country, every culture has some expression of the local church.
Number three, we have a pretty good benefits passage right now. We have peace. We have meaning. We have cause.
Number four, we have a retirement package that's off the charts. So we belong to the greatest organization in the world, the body of Christ. The problem is we're running out of tomorrows. All we have is today. So today what will your anthem be? Will it be less for Christ? Less for Christ, that's our anthem. Less for Christ, let's make a song out of it. Or more for Christ? Will you get to a place where, "Well, yes, now that I'm an older, more mature Christian, I've put in my duty and my years of serving, so less for Christ". It can never be that. It must always be more, us living like there's no tomorrow. I'll sum it all up in this statement: When prayer is fervent, when love is preeminent, and when serving is prominent, then God is glorified, the church is edified, and the world is notified that God is real, and not until then.
So, Father, we pray that you would help up. We should be praying harder, a fervent, meaningful love for one another, and being smart about the use of our energy in the body of Christ, discovering what our gift is, what we're good at, and letting you fit us in to contribute to the benefit of all, for the glorification of God, the edification of the church, and thereby the notification to the world. Would you help us? Simply ask, return us to that first love, in Jesus' name, amen.