“A GREATER CHAMPION”                          By Pastor YAU

Text: 1 Corinthians 13:1-8                               October 19, 2008

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   An Olympic champion: Eric Liddell, a former US Olympic champion immortalized for his surprising gold medal victory in the 400 meters during the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris. A year after his triumph, Liddell went to China where he spent the last 20 year of his life as a missionary teacher and rural pastor. There he ran the greatest race of his life against opponents we all know---difficult circumstances, war, disease and uncertainly.

2)   A greater champion: During the WWII, Eric Liddell was placed in a crowded Japanese internment camp with 1,500 other people where he carried water for the elderly, refereeing games for the teens among other good deeds. When he died of a brain tumor in the camp in 1945, one camp internee described him as a greater champion because “he lived better than he preached.”

 

CHAMPIONS IN THE BIBLE:

1)   Champion of faith: “The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you’…By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Gen. 12:1; Hebrews 11:8) Moving away from your hometown, your father’s house and your community and friends some 5,000 years ago was never the same as many of us do today. It means voluntary exile and isolation that in most cases meant death. The fact that Abraham obeyed the call of God elevated him to the pinnacle as father of faith.

2)   Champion of humility: “Now that Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else in the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)Few people in history had done so much to change the fate of a nation than what Moses had done for Israel, but God credited him as the most humble man in human history. This description was given after the organized opposition by his older brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, prompted by their jealousy. God further sanctioned Moses’ humility by buried him on the top of Pisgah, Mt. Nebo and no one knew where his grave was. (Deut. 34:1, 6)You may have done a lot for the Lord, but you don’t need a lot of attention or praises from man.

3)   Champion of obedience: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God but made himself nothing. Taking the very nature of a servant, and being found in appearance of a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death.” (Phil. 2:6-8)Obedience is one of the effects of being humble. Our Lord has demonstrated the highest obedience to His Father God by coming to this world as a man, a servant, and died as a servant for all the sins of men. Obedience often times means sacrifice. In the case of Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice is his life.

4)   Champion of faithfulness: “So then, men ought regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust much prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2)These are the words of Paul, one of the most faithful servants of God. Then in the third chapter of Philippians, at his old age, Paul continued to express his faithfulness by saying that, “Brothers, I do not consider myself to have achieved something. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.” (Phil. 3:13)Being faithful to trust is never easy. To be faithful to the end is much harder. But that’s what made a champion.

 

WHY GREATER CHAMPIONS?

1)   Greater in the call: Most champions, if not all, were called to the fields by men, either themselves or people around them such as parents, teachers, coaches or talent seekers. Some of these people may have grand purposes for the champions, but they are human and for human purpose at best. The champions listed in the above section were all called by God and were with His higher purpose in them. Therefore they are greater champions.

2)   Greater in purpose: All champions deserve glory and honor for their achievements, but almost all of them became champions for their personal benefits or benefits of their immediate circle. The whole purpose of most champions is for the “self” which may not be “selfish” but the “self.” When people answer the call of God and venture out in the purpose of God, they are greater champions because whatever they may achieve is not for their “self” but for God and His people.

3)   Greater in value: While we all applause the achievements of great athletes and admire their discipline and training, the value of their championship falls short. You only have to look back on many of the familiar names of champions, besides few of them made tons of money for themselves by endorsing sports, brands of merchandise and other commercial items, their value as champions is relatively very small. Compare to those champions called by God for a much greater purpose beyond themselves we can see that great champions are not that great after all.

4)   Greater in results: The result of all champions, be it sports or spelling bees or any other competition, they will all be forgotten in a short while and few, if any, will still care. Few of them have lasting contribution to anyone. But those champions called and served the Lord bring people and their souls to God for lasting relationship with God. Their sacrifice and examples last for 1,000s of years and saved countless souls for eternity. We honor champions of the world, but we salute champions of God.

 

THE REAL GREATER CHAMPION: (1 Corinthians 13:1-8))

1)    Love is greater than talents: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a sounding gong and a clanging cymbal.” (13:1) This world, and some Christians and churches, value talents higher than a loving heart and that is the root of many problems. While we all love to have talents, but God asks that we are to pursue love, love for God and love for men, much more than talents if we are to be His true disciples.

2)    Love is greater than knowledge: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all the knowledge.” (13:2)In this modern day society, we exalt the value of knowledge and what it can do for our life. No one may argue the importance of knowledge, be it of science, technology or knowledge of God and His word. But knowledge is no substitute of love of God and our fellow men: those in our family, schools, offices, churches and community. Knowledge without love can be the source of boast and pride. It is love that transforms knowledge into beneficial acts for the good of others that counts.

3)    Love is greater than faith: “And if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (13:2b)We all love to have faith, faith in God and in man. But faith in no substitute of love. The power of faith rests in the power of love.

4)    Love is greater than charity: “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (13:3)Charity means good works here. We can do all the good works for the poor, the needy, the underprivileged but if we do that without love, it means nothing to anyone.

5)    Love is greater than personality: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (13:4)These are great personality qualities. All of us should pursue to have all of these good qualities. But building good personality with out love is selfish serving and is not what God wants us to have.

6)    Love is greater than good deeds: “Love is not rude, love is not self-seeking, love is not easily angered and love keeps no record of wrongs.” (13:5)Being gentle and generous are good deeds but are not substitute of love. We may do all the good deeds for the purpose of self serving or personal glory without love and they are nothing in the eyes of God.

7)    Love is greater than truth: “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth.” (13:6)Truth here means being truthful which is an important virtue of being in love. Since all lies are evil and are in contradiction with truthfulness, genuine love can not delight in the evil of lies by rejoices in truth. 

8)    Love is greater than hope: “Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres.” (13:7)In the four areas of virtuous acts, hope is in the center of them all. Wherever there is love, we endure the present hoping for the future. Love sustains all the trust, hope, protection and perseverance.

9)    Love is greater than time: “Love never fails” (13:8) Some have translated the Greek word to “ends”, “dies” or “stops.” This is about the lasting nature of love that supercedes all the above good and virtuous personality, talents, knowledge, deeds, truth and hope. Love outlasts anything man may have or do.

10)          The greatest love of all: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16) No champion of human love is greater than the love of God for us, sinners, to send His son, Christ, to die for our sins on the cross. When you believe in Jesus Christ, you will receive everlasting life.

CONCLUSION:

1)   Love is greater: In the life of Eric Liddell, what made him a real hero and a champion that lasted for many years in many lives is not his gold medal from an Olympic race in 1924 but his love and sacrifice for those in the internment camp in China. Few people will remember the bygone Olympic champions but many will remember the love and good works we have done for them.

2)   Love in many ways: From the text of today, especially vv.4-8, we learn that there are so many ways we may express love to others. Few of us have the discipline and training to win a gold medal in an Olympic Games, but all of us have the ability to do things that represent our love to people around us: family, work place, school, church and community. Anyone can be a real champion to someone with love.

3)   Love is for you: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Son to die on the cross for you that if you can believe in Him you will receive eternal life.” (John 3:16, paraphrased) No other love is greater than God’s love for you. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and begin a new life with love in Him.