How much of your time, your energy, and your resources are focused on things that are merely temporal? Does the reality of eternity even enter your mind on a daily basis? Most importantly, how should your approach to life and eternity be changed by the resurrection of Jesus Christ? These are the kinds of questions David Platt puts before us in this sermon from 1 Corinthians 15. This passage points us to the hope of our future, bodily resurrection, a hope that is grounded in Christ’s own bodily resurrection. And if Christ has in fact been raised, then it only makes sense that we would spend our lives in loving, radical, risk-taking, death-defying, all-out obedience to Jesus.
If you have a Bible—and I hope you or somebody around you does—let me invite you to open with me to 1 Corinthians 15. As you’re turning there, I want to welcome you here and online. We invite you to join us in person to the extent to which you are able. It’s good to be together around God’s Word.
We are now in the final stretch of our journey through the book of 1 Corinthians that goes all the way back to February 2020. So right before COVID, we started walking through this book and we’ve been through a lot in this book—with a long pause along the way. To see the way God has spoken to our lives and our church family in such a timely, personal, powerful, unmistakable way has been nothing short of supernatural. I am confident that these last two chapters over the next four weeks are going to complete that trend, especially when I think about the situation we’re in in our country right now, with rising COVID cases and a renewed mask mandate locally. There is a clear sense that this is not over, not that it ever has been for people all around the world and many people here in our country.
I met this past week with a fellow pastor of a large, predominantly African-American church in our city; they have still not resumed in-person gatherings as a church. He shared with me about the numerous funerals they’ve had in their church and community. It got to the point that they had to limit funerals in their church building only to church members, because there were so many people dying in their community. None of us thought in March 2020 that this is where we would be a year and a half later.
It’s not just with COVID, but in other areas of our lives too. Today is my youngest son’s fifth birthday, but I can’t celebrate it with him, because he’s in another country and I can’t get to him. I was supposed to become his dad when he was three and a half and he’s turning five today without me and without his mom, without brothers and a sister who pray for him every day and can’t wait to love him. We’ll celebrate his birthday together tonight, even though he’s not there yet.
Others of you are waiting in different ways, facing new challenges that have developed over the last year and a half in your life, family, school, work and health. So the question I want to ask today is how do you keep going on when you don’t know how long the trial will last? When some days, if you’re totally honest, you want to throw in the towel? Or if you’re not there, you at least wonder, “What’s the way forward?” You’re tired, weak, discouraged and at the least, you want to stay still. How do you find the strength to step forward in the face of new challenges, when you’re already so depleted? In summary, how do you press on in difficult days?
I’ve been thinking and praying specifically about students and teenagers who, this time last week, were at camp making significant decisions to trust in Jesus or to turn from sin in their lives. You’ve been back less than a week and you’re already facing temptations to leave that decision you made behind. How do you press forward in the face of temptations and trials?
There are so many different ways these questions might apply in each of our lives. Even as I ask these questions, I am yet again so thankful for how God, in His sovereignty, has ordained for us to hear a specific word from Him today. He desires to help each one of us, no matter what’s going on in our lives, with all the different things going on in our lives. So that’s what I want to show you.
1 Corinthians 15 was Inspired by the Holy Spirit
We’re actually going to walk through 1 Corinthians 15 over the next two weeks, but let me show you how this chapter starts and ends, in order to show you what God is clearly saying to us right now in His Word. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:1-2. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul writes these words to the church at Corinth:
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
So let’s get the picture here. Paul is starting to bring this letter to a close, saying, “Remember the gospel that you received, in which you are standing, by which you are being saved—if you hold fast to it.” Do you see that phrase? God is saying to His people, “Hold fast. Hold fast. Hold fast to My Word, to My promises to you, to My love for you in the gospel, to the Rock I’ve given you to stand on and to save you and deliver you during these days. Hold fast.”
That’s the message from the very beginning of this chapter. Now jump to the end of the chapter and look at the bookends here. Listen to what God says through Paul at the end of 1 Corinthians 15, verse 58, “Therefore,” —in light of everything I’ve just written— “my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Hold fast. Don’t let these trials move you off the Rock I’ve given you to stand on. No, let them enable you to press on, to abound in My work during these days. What a word—abound? God says to His people, “Don’t give up. Press on. Abound.” How is that possible in hard days? Here’s how: by knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. It’s worth it to press on. It’s worth it forever.
When we decided a while back to title this series in 1 Corinthians ‘Living in Light of Eternity’, we had no idea what we would be walking through. According to 1 Corinthians 15—and as we’ll see later in 1 Corinthians 16—the key to holding fast and pressing on in this world is remembering that this world is not the end. This world and all you are seeing around you is not all there is to see.
In these two chapters, God is saying to us, “Lift your eyes. Amidst your trials, amidst the challenges, amidst the waiting, amidst the questions, amidst the hurt and the heartache, lift your eyes and see. This world is not all there is, but what you are living for will last forever.” When you hold fast, you will get to the end and realize it was not in vain. It was worth it. Holding fast, pressing on, abounding in the Word of the Lord—it will be totally worth it.
So, I want to show you how this chapter communicates that truth to our hearts. We’re going to split this up into two parts. You do not want to miss next Sunday. What we’re going to see this Sunday is awesome; what we’ll see next Sunday is even more awesome. We’ll start with just plain awesome in the first half of 1 Corinthians 15, taking this first half in a couple sections. Let’s start by reading verses one through 11:
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
I want to show you three truths today that we need to remember if we’re going to hold fast, if we’re going to press on in the work of the Lord during difficult days. The whole chapter starts with Paul saying, “I want to remind you of truth to help you hold fast.”
So remembering is key to holding fast.
Truth #1 – God’s grace will always, always, always prove sufficient for you.
According to God’s Word, how do you hold fast and press on in difficult days? You remember that God’s grace will always, always, always prove sufficient for you. Obviously, it’s not necessary to say “always” three times there, but we need to emphasize this word and feel it. Remember that God’s grace will always, always, always, in all times and all circumstances, prove sufficient for you.
Let me start from the end of what we just read and work our way back up. In the last few verses we just read, Paul is talking about his life. In verse ten, he talks about how the grace of God is the reason he is who he is. “God’s grace has made me who I am.” He also says God’s grace toward him was not in vain; it had an effect. Then do you hear his next words? “I worked hard,” he says, “But this work is not me; it’s the grace of God that is with me and in me.”
I love this language. Paul says, “What I do is not me. It’s God’s grace with me and in me.” We’re going to see in a minute that Paul is walking through trials as he writes this. He’s talking here about the grace of God, the help of God, to keep going in the middle of trials. This is not the only place where Paul talks like this. Even in our Bible reading this morning in Acts 26, Paul is on trial for his life and says, “I have the help of God.” In Colossians 1:29, Paul is talking about pressing on through suffering, through difficult days, and he writes, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”
Feel this language. He says, “I toil, I labor, I struggle through trials with the energy, the power, the grace of God working within me.” Paul uses this same language later with the Corinthians church. Listen to these words from 2 Corinthians 12:9 as he talks about challenges he’s enduring. Paul recounts how God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” See the language there? “When you feel weakest, My grace will be sufficient to give you power.” Paul goes on to say:
9 Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
1 Corinthians 15 Reminds us that God’s Grace is More than Enough
Are we hearing this from God? God is saying to each of us who know and trust in Him that His grace will be sufficient for us no matter what we face. When we feel at our weakest, His grace will show itself to be sufficiently strong in our weakness.
There’s one more place I want to show you this message to the church in Corinth. I was spending time with some leaders in our church this week who feel weary and we looked at this together. Listen to this language, starting in 2 Corinthians 1:8:
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” That’s a low point. “I have no strength to go on, despairing even of life. I don’t have strength to go on—not just in ministry, but in life. “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.” No hope, despair, weakness, depleted. “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” So our strength was at the end, in such a way that we had to rely on the power of the God Who raises the dead.
That last phrase brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15. So how can you know that God’s grace will always, always, always prove sufficient for you, no matter what the circumstance? How can you know that God’s grace is sufficient for what you’re walking through right now? Or that God’s grace will be sufficient for you in whatever you face this next week or this next month or this next year? Paul says, “Remember, you’re relying on help from the God Who raises the dead.”
That’s what 1 Corinthians 15 is all about. Earlier in that passage, we read, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he 5 appeared to Cephas and then to the twelve.” Now, if we’re not careful, we can think this sounds pretty basic. “Okay, Jesus died, He was buried, He rose from the dead.” We can almost read these verses with a ho-hum sense of monotony. “Yeah, yeah, okay. I know that.”
But think about this. There’s nothing ho-hum about it. We’re talking about a Man who died the most violent form of death imaginable in that day, then after being dead three days—not kind of dead, partly dead, but completely dead—He was raised to life and started talking to people. Can you imagine going to a funeral this week, seeing someone’s burial, with their dead body placed in the ground, then a week later, that same person comes up to you on the street saying, “Hello.” That’s crazy. It’s crazy good. It’s the greatest news in all the world. Death has been defeated. May that never be ho-hum for us.
So now put all this together. Christian, do you realize that the same grace and power that was sufficient to raise Jesus from the dead is the same grace and power that is in you as you walk through trials? Mark it down. If God’s grace is sufficient to bring Jesus out of a tomb, then God’s grace is sufficient to bring you through trials.
Remember this, no matter how dark it gets, no matter how tough it is, no matter how discouraged you are. Remember that the grave-conquering, Satan-crushing, hell-overcoming, death-defeating, sin-stopping, sorrow-ending, trial-trampling, tear-wiping, joy-bringing, never-ending grace and power of God are with you. And they will always, always, always prove sufficient for you. That’s the first truth to remember when you walk through difficult days.
Truth #2 – The resurrection is real.
So how do you hold fast, press on and move forward in difficult days? You remember the resurrection is a reality. Obviously, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is a fundamental truth in Christianity, of which 1 Corinthians 15 has already reminded us. But there was a problem with the church at Corinth. Many of the Christians there had grown up with a Greek worldview that believed in the immortality of the soul, but not the body. So many of them thought that when they died, that was the end of the story for their body. Their soul would go on, but it would never fill a body again. As a result, many of these Christians were denying that once they died their bodies would be resurrected; only their souls would live on forever. We’ll talk about that more next week.
Now in the first part of this chapter, Paul starts asking them, “Do you realize what you’re saying? Do you realize the implications of what you’re believing?” Let’s read what Paul says next, starting in verse 12. As we read through this, I want you to circle every time you see either the word “dead” or “death” or “raised” or “resurrected” to get a feel for how important it is that Jesus has been physically resurrected from the dead. Let’s start in verse 12:
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
I counted 35 times in 23 verses where this passage talks about the physical resurrection of the dead. In essence, this passage is saying, “If you don’t believe in the physical resurrection of your body, then you are saying Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead in His body.” Paul is saying to the church in Corinth, “Do you realize the implications of that?”
1 Corinthians 15 Highlights the Importance of the Resurrection
Just think about this question: what if Jesus did not rise from the dead? I’m going to give you four unavoidable conclusions Paul comes to if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead. They are all really tragic consequences.
1. Our faith is futile. If Jesus has not physically risen from the grave, then our faith is futile, yet we still stand guilty before God. Verse 14 says, “,,,your faith is in vain…” Verse 17 says, “…your faith is futile…” It’s pointless. It’s worthless. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, you have staked your entire life for eternity on the decomposed corpse of a Jewish carpenter 2,000 years ago. Even worse, verse 17 says, “…you’re still in your sins.”
You say, “Well I thought it was Jesus’ death on the cross that provides forgiveness for sins.” Indeed, the cross is where we see Jesus died in the place of sinners, but the resurrection is where we see that His sacrifice has been accepted by God on behalf of sinners. God has raised Him to life to show that all who trust in Him will live forever with Him. Romans 4:25 says Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. So if Jesus’ resurrection is not a reality, neither is our justification, so we stand guilty before God for our sins.
2. Our message is false and our mission is destructive. Then, keep going. What we are preaching is in vain, Paul says in verse 14. It’s not true. We’re spreading lies. That makes our mission as Christians in the church destructive. Verse 15 says we’re even found to be misrepresenting God. McLean Bible Church, we’re spreading falsehoods about God if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. We’re spreading lies all across Metro Washington, DC, and all over the world in ways that defame and dishonor God Himself. And as if that’s not enough, it keeps going.
3. Those who have died in Christ have been condemned before God. Paul says in verse 18, “Those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” The word he uses here for “perish” is more than just physical death. Physical death is what Paul means when he says “those who have fallen asleep in Christ…” That makes sense when you put it together. If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then Christians who have died were not forgiven of their sins. They were guilty before God, so as a result they are at this moment experiencing eternal condemnation and everlasting punishment for their sins.
4. Obedience to Jesus is to be pitied. Then Paul concludes—for his own life and for other followers of Jesus—if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then risk-taking, trial-enduring, death-defying obedience to Jesus is to be pitied in this world. He says, “Pity me for the way I’m living, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.” In verse 30 he starts talking about all the risks he’s taking, the trials he’s enduring, pointing to him facing death for the spread of the gospel. We’ve seen this in our Bible reading over the last couple weeks in the book of Acts. Paul was beaten, imprisoned, stoned, starved, in danger and shipwrecked.
In verse 30 here, he says, “Why am I in danger every hour?” Verse 31, “I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!” In verse 32 he starts talking about fighting with beasts at Ephesus. He’s saying, “Why am I doing this? Why am I taking risks and enduring trials and flirting with death in obedience to Jesus?” Then Paul literally says, “This is dumb, if Jesus is still dead.” He said, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” In other words, if there’s no resurrection from the dead, if this life is all there is, then eat, drink and be merry. If this world is all there is, friends, then give up the battle and live it up in this world. Take it easy. Coast it out. Maximize your comforts in this world. That kind of life makes sense if this world is all there is. Risk-taking, trial-enduring, death-defying obedience to a dead Jewish Rabbi Who deceived all His followers makes no sense in this world. Pity people who live like that.
Do you remember Pascal’s wager? Blaise Pascal’s theory, simplified, was that it’s better to be a Christian than a non-Christian in this world, solely because of the chances. Pascal said if you live your life as a Christian on earth and later come to find out that Christianity is not true, then you won’t have lost a lot, because, after all, you have lived a nice, good, decent life. But, Pascal said, if you live your life as a non-Christian in this world and in eternity you discover that Christianity is indeed true, then you’ll have lost everything and will spend all of eternity in hell. So when you play the chances, it’s worth it. It’s just a lot smarter to be a Christian. The Bible could not disagree more.
You see, what Pascal said might be the case if all that was involved in Christianity was living a nice, comfortable Christian spin on the American dream. Live it up in this world with all the possessions, pursuits and pleasures of this world, and tack on Jesus on Sundays for safe measure. If that’s what Christianity is, then what Pascal said makes sense. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the version of Christianity that for far too long has prevailed in our culture. That is the version of Christianity that multitudes of professing Christians have settled for, living just like everyone else in the world, for everything everyone else is living for, and tacking on Jesus for safe measure. But that is not biblical Christianity.
Biblical Christianity is about risk-taking, trial-enduring, death-defying obedience to Jesus. It’s about giving your life to spread this gospel wherever God leads, no matter what it costs. It’s about embracing the suffering that comes along the way in the process, even going to hard places, needy places, dangerous places, among dangerous people. It’s about forsaking possessions, putting aside comforts and taking risks. All of that only makes sense if Jesus rose from the dead.
I think about a couple and their kids family in our church family. I won’t mention their names for the sake of security. I’ve grown to love this family over the last couple years. They have deliberately thrown aside a nice comfortable Christian spin on the American dream. They’ve brought foster children into their home in ways that have not always been easy, in ways that have been hard, that have led them to adopt in different ways. Now they’re taking a job overseas deliberately somewhere in West Africa, in the middle of unreached people, to try to get the gospel to them. They’re about to pack their bags and go to a hard place with all their kids. Now if Jesus is still in the grave, then none of that makes sense. I would advise them, “Just take it easy, guys. Live it up here. If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then maximize your comfort and minimize the risks you’re taking.” But verse 20 says, “In fact Christ has been raised from the dead…” And that changes everything!
These Verses Show Us that Our Faith is Not Futile
So in this passage, let’s not just think about the implications if Jesus was not raised from the dead, because He was raised from the dead. Let’s turn these implications around. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, our faith is well founded and we stand forgiven before God. Indeed, our faith is not futile. Our faith is well-founded—extremely well-founded. Non-Christian friends gathered with us today, please hear this. Every single one of us needs forgiveness before God. Every single one of us has rebelled against God. Our greatest need is to be restored to God and the good news of the Bible is that God has made a way for restoration to be a reality. God has sent His Son Jesus to die on a cross for sins. God has raised Him from the dead, so that anyone, anywhere, who turns from their sin and trusts in Jesus as Savior and Lord will be forgiven of all their sins and restored to relationship with God forever.
There is no better, wiser, more secure, more eternally secure place to place your faith than in the risen Christ. All who trust in Christ stand forgiven before God. Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins, then He was raised to life for our justification. In light of this, our message is true and our mission is urgent. We have seen and we know the One Who conquered death. He’s conquered death and sin, not just on our behalf, but on behalf of sinners around us and sinners around the world, all of whom need the gospel.
So we lay down our lives to make this message known. We give our lives, even lose them if necessary, telling everyone that Jesus has conquered death. We do it with boldness, because we know that those who have died in Christ now dwell with God. We know that all who have gone before us and who have trusted in Jesus, they are alive.
I think about my dad. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day he suddenly and unexpectedly died of a heart attack. I so miss my dad, yet I know that even though my dad died, he lives. Because of his faith in the risen Christ, my dad is dwelling with God right now, along with every single person who has died with faith in the risen Christ.
This reminds us that we have nothing to fear in this life. To live is Christ and to die is what? It’s gain (Philippians 1:21)! So we take risks. We endure trials. We press forward in death-defying obedience to Jesus, knowing this kind of life is not to be pitied in this world. No, risk-taking, trial-enduring, death-defying obedience to Jesus is to be envied in this world. This is the only life that makes sense if Jesus is alive.
Think about this family we’re sending out to spend their lives for the spread of the gospel among the unreached in West Africa. That’s an enviable life. And not just for them, but for an entire church family that says today, “Whether we go or stay, we will take risks, endure trials, and press forward in death-defying obedience to Jesus. Why? Because we know this kind of life is not in vain.”
Life is not in vain when it’s lived in obedience to the resurrected Christ. Brothers and sisters in Christ, remember that God’s grace will always, always, always prove sufficient for you and the resurrection is real.
Truth #3 – Remember where all of history is headed.
We’re going to unpack that second point more next week because it’s even more awesome. But number three I where I want to leave us today, with an outline of history that the Bible gives us, starting in verse 24 of this chapter. So remember where all of history is headed.
Paul starts talking about the end, when Jesus returns, saying Jesus will “deliver the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” I want you to get a biblical perspective on what is going on in the world right now and what’s going to happen in this world in the future.
At this moment, Jesus has risen from the dead, He has ascended to the right hand of the Father, and He right now is reigning over everything. Jesus has dominion over all things. Think about His words at the beginning of the Great Commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Acts 28:18-20). Right now, Jesus has all authority and dominion over all things. This is significant because I think a lot of Christians have the idea, at least in the back of our minds, that when Jesus returns, that’s when He’s going to reign over all the world. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible says Jesus Christ is reigning right now. In fact, the language in verse 25 is intentional. Paul says, “He must reign until…” That word ‘until’ implies that Jesus is reigning now in view of something else to come in the future. So at this moment, Jesus has dominion and reigns over all things. He is in control.
That’s good news to know. It’s good news to know that COVID is not in control; neither is cancer, crime, nor any leader or country in this world, for that matter. Mark it down. Our nation is not supreme and that is really good news. There is only one Kingdom that reigns supreme—the Kingdom that’s ruled by the King Who has dominion over all things. His name is Jesus.
Do you know what He’s doing right now? Look at verse 25. Day after day, Jesus is putting the enemies of God under His feet. That language reminds us of Paul’s language at the end of Ephesians where he talks about a battle that is raging in the world for the souls of men and women, boys and girls. It’s a battle, not of flesh and blood, but of rulers in this dark world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). The gospel of this kingdom is advancing through men, women and students who are living in risk-taking, trial-enduring, death-defying obedience to Jesus, the resurrected King.
1 Corinthians 15 Calls Us to Trust in God During All Our Trials
As we press on, trusting and proclaiming Christ, through trials and temptations, through slander, dangers, toils and snares, the enemies of God are being defeated. Every time a new person comes to faith in Christ, the enemies of God are being defeated. Every time a need is met in the name of Jesus, every time an orphan finds a family, a widow finds help, a sojourner finds a home in the name of Jesus, every time the enslaved are freed, the oppressed are redeemed, the persecuted are delivered and the unreached are reached in the name of Jesus, the enemies of God are being defeated.
That’s what Jesus is doing right now. Don’t miss this—He’s doing it through you and me. So press on church. Abound in this work. Don’t lose heart. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t despair and don’t stop. Look up and see Jesus, the King on high, Who loves you, gave His life for you and Who lives in you. He is reigning over all things and one day soon, Jesus will deliver all things over to God the Father Verse 24 says He will deliver over every rule and authority and power, including death itself. Jesus is going to overcome them all.
One day all the enemies of God will finally be defeated. This “must” happen, verse 25 says. That’s another way of saying this will happen. We know this because the God of history has ordained this for His own glory. Verse 28, “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” That’s where all of history is headed!
Philippians 2:10-11 tells us that every knee is going to bow, every tongue is going to confess, that Jesus Christ is the risen Lord to the glory of God the Father. All of history is headed toward the day when the enemies of God will finally be defeated. When Satan, sin, suffering, COVID, cancer, hurt, heartache, sorrow and death will all be no more. Then God, the King, will be worshiped and praised by people from every tribe and tongue and nation of this earth (Revelation 5:9).
So church, kids, students, young adults, singles, couples, families, senior adults—hold fast. Stand strong. Press forward in risk-taking, trial-enduring, death-defying obedience to Jesus, remembering that every step of the way God’s grace will always, always, always be sufficient for you. The resurrection is real. All of history is headed toward the day when the enemies of God will finally be defeated and the glory of God will forever be exalted. Live today, live every day, especially difficult days in this world, with immovable, unshakable hope, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). It’s never in vain when it’s in God.
I was thinking about how we could best respond to this text and one thing immediately came to my mind. this is a little different than how we normally close, but I want you to do this to whatever extent it’s appropriate for you. I know there are many different circumstances represented here today. People are walking through trials, through valleys, people feel depleted, weak and in need of an extra measure of grace to press on. If you would put yourself in that category, I’m going to invite you to stand where you are. This is a picture of you saying, “Yeah, I need an extra measure of grace to press on in difficult days.” Just acknowledge your need before God and even before our church family. Don’t think, “Well, what I’m going through isn’t as hard as what others are going through.” It’s not about relative concerns. It’s just you saying today, “I need an extra measure of grace to press on during these days.” If you would say that, then I would invite you to stand right now, in this room and other places, as a picture of you saying, “I need that kind of grace in my life right now. There’s hurt. There are trials, struggles. I need an extra measure of grace from God.”
Now I’m going to invite all of us who are sitting to stretch out hands toward those people, kind of as a COVID-style laying on of hands. Just pray for our brothers and sisters. There are people standing all across this room. Can we just bow our heads right now and put our hands out toward these folks. Let’s just start praying, out loud, all at the same time, all our voices interceding. You don’t necessarily know the people you’re praying for or what they’re walking through, but you know what God’s Word has just said to us. Pray that they’ll be able to hold fast, to be immovable, that God’s grace would come over them. Then after a couple minutes, I’ll lead us corporately in prayer. Just start praying for them right now, interceding for one another.
O God, we come before You, collective voices and hearts right now, specifically on behalf of those who are standing. I don’t presume every one of them standing even knows You personally and has even entered into a relationship with You through faith in Jesus. I pray that this would be the day when they would find healing for their deepest hurts. I pray that this would be the day when they would find balm for their deepest wounds, that they would find Your mercy through reconciliation to You, through trust in You. That they would find eternal life with You. God, we pray that over them.
At the same time, we pray for all those who already know You, who are hurting, who are struggling, who feel weak and depleted—maybe even to the point of despairing of life itself. God, we pray for Your grace to shower over them in this moment. May they know this in a deep and personal way, right now through Your Spirit speaking to their hearts as we pray for them. May they know how much You love them. May they know they are not alone. May they know You are with them, that Your grace is with them, that Your strength and power are theirs—the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. May they know that power is living inside of them.
God, may they put aside dependence on themselves. They don’t have the strength to go on, so we pray for Your strength to be their strength in their weakness. Be comfort in their hurts. Be wisdom amidst their questions. God, shower them with Your grace, we pray. Where healing is needed, we pray for healing. Where reconciliation and restoration is needed, we pray for that. God, for the burdens that are heavy on their hearts, we pray that they would cast them on You right now, knowing You care for them and that You take the burdens from them. May Your peace be theirs. May Your comfort be theirs. May Your hope be theirs.
God, in the middle of despair, may they see they have reason for hope in You. We pray that You would help them to hold fast when faith is hard to come by, when they’re tempted not to trust, when they’re tempted to doubt Your goodness or greatness. We pray that You would give them faith and that Your grace would be sufficient in that moment. We pray that You would help them see You on High, Lord Jesus, working on their behalf, interceding for them even now. May they know that if You are for them, nothing can stand against them. May they know that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is theirs. May they know that Your grace will always, always, always prove sufficient for everything they need.
God, we pray this together with longing for the day when You will wipe away every tear from our eyes, when sin will be no more, when sorrow will be nor more, when struggle and suffering will be no more. Jesus, we praise You for dying on the cross to pay the price for our sins, for rising from the dead, for ascending to the Father in heaven, and for Your promise that one day You are coming back. You will take the old and it will be gone, then the new will come. So help us we pray, to persevere and hold fast in faith, to press on in difficult days, as we wait for that day. In Jesus’ name, we pray all these things. And all of God’s people said together, “Amen.”